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Caregiving tips for long-distance caregivers

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Story by Jim Miller

Providing care and support for an aging parent that lives nearby can be challenging, time consuming and complicated. But when you live far away, caring for him or her brings added stress.

It is estimated there are 7 million people in the U.S. today who are considered to be long-distance caregivers. These are people who live at least one hour away and are an integral participant in the care of another.

If you are caring for an aging parent or other loved one from a long distance, here are some tips and resources that can help.

Professional Help

When it comes to monitoring and caring for an aging parent from afar, you have a couple options. You can either hire a professional to oversee your parent’s needs, or you can manage things yourself by building a support system, tapping into available resources, and utilizing technology devices that can help you keep tabs on him or her.

If your parent needs a lot of help, you should consider hiring an “aging life care professional” who will give them a thorough assessment to identify their needs, and will set up and manage all aspects of care. These professionals typically charge between $100 and $200 per hour, and are not covered by Medicare.

To find a professional in your parent’s area, ask his doctor for a referral or visit the Aging Life Care Association website at AgingLifeCare.org.

Do-It-Yourself

If your parent only needs occasional help, or if you can’t afford to use a care manager, here are some things you can do yourself to help him.

Assemble a support system: Put together a network of people (nearby friends or family, neighbors, clergy, etc.) who can check on your parent regularly, and who you can call on from time to time for occasional help. Also put together a list of reliable services you can call for household needs like lawn care, handyman services, plumber, etc.

Tap local resources: Most communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that can help seniors with basic needs such as home delivered meals, transportation, senior companion services and more. Contact the Area Aging Agency near your parent – call 800-211-2116 for contact information – to find out what’s available.

Use financial aids: If your parent needs help with his financial chores, arrange for direct deposit for their income sources, and set up automatic payments for their utilities and other routine bills. You may also want to set up your parent’s online banking service, so you can pay bills and monitor their account anytime. Or, if you need help, hire a daily money manager (aadmm.com) to do it for you. They charge between $25 and $100 per hour.

Hire in-home help: Depending on your parent’s needs, you may need to hire a part-time home-care aide that can help with things like preparing meals, housekeeping or personal care. Costs can run anywhere from $12 up to $25 per hour.

To find someone, ask for referrals through your parent’s doctor or area hospital discharge planners, contact a non-medical home care agency, or try websites like Care.com, CareLinx.com, CareFamily.com or CareSpotter.com.

Utilize technology: To help you keep tabs on your parent and manage their care from afar, there are various technologies that can help.

For example, there are motion sensors (like Silver Mother – sen.se/silvermother) and video cameras (nest.com/camera) that can help you make sure he is moving around the house normally; computerized pillboxes (medminder.com) that will notify you if he forgets to take his medication; simplified computer tablets (grandpad.net) that provide important face-to-face video calls; and a variety of websites that can help you coordinate care (lotsahelpinghands.com) and medical information (reunioncare.com) with other family members.

For more tips, call the National Institute on Aging at 800-222-2225 and order their free booklet “Long-Distance Caregiving: Twenty Questions and Answers.”