Caring for Elderly Parents from Afar

Caring for MomFamilies used to stay in the same general location. This made it convenient for grown children to keep tabs on their elderly parents and make sure that they were doing well and receiving proper care. Now that so many families are scattered across the country, it can be a bit more challenging to care for our aging loved ones. If your parents live in Phoenix but you are up in Portland, rest assured there are still plenty of ways to be an effective long-distance caregiver. Consider the following tips and ideas for caring for elderly parents from afar:

Research Their Health Issues

One way to help care for your parents from afar is to thoroughly acquaint yourself with any health issues your parents might have. This will help you to understand any possible symptoms or issues to listen for when you are speaking with them by phone. The Mayo Clinic has ample resources to help you understand their conditions. Another way to help is to encourage your parents to sign a release that will allow you to speak with their caregivers. Although this can be a difficult topic to bring up, if you can schedule a call with their physicians, it can help you and the medical team stay on top of your loved ones’ health issues and be aware of any changes in their condition.

Make the Most of Your Visits

Even if your parents can no longer travel to your home for visits, try to make periodic trips to see them, and then make the most of your time in the home. Take time to check the condition of the home, and look in the fridge and cupboards to be sure they are well-stocked with food. If you notice anything that can make it hard for your elderly parents to get around, you might arrange — with their permission — to make needed modifications like a rail near the tub or adding extra light so things are easier to see. If they have a friendly neighbor who they see often, consider meeting with him or her and give the neighbor your contact info so he or she can call you if there is any change in your parents’ health or behavior.

Enroll Them in an Identity Protection Plan

Not all long-distance caregiving involves medical issues. It’s also wise to be aware of the very real problem of identity theft and how it can impact the elderly. Because they tend to have pensions, retirement accounts and maybe several bank accounts, older Americans are popular targets for thieves who get a hold of their personal information and use it to access their funds. All too often, trusting elderly people have their excellent credit ratings ruined. To help protect them and their accounts, consider enrolling them in an identity theft protection program such as Lifelock.com. This company, and companies like it, can keep tabs on your parents’ personal information and monitor their accounts watching for possible problems.

Look into Home Services

If your elderly parents are recovering from a health problem or you notice that they are having problems performing basic tasks like cooking or even dressing, you might look into setting up some home health care services for them. As Kiplinger notes, home care companies like Home Instead will assist elderly people with transportation, cooking, light housekeeping and other tasks. If you can, try to meet the home caregiver yourself and make sure that he or she will be a good match for your parents’ personalities, and then follow up with your folks and make sure the caregiver is completing the various tasks.Great Grandmother

Communicate Online

It’s surprising how many seniors still aren’t online, and sad too, because they’re missing out on benefits of using the Internet. It’s not difficult to get connected these days. The Apple iPad is so intuitive and easy to learn and use that it’s a good fit for a two-year old or ninety-two year old. With just a little help from friends or family, grandparents and great grandparents with no prior computer experience can get online, not just with you and distant relatives, but with new friends and their doctors. To see just how life-changing the Internet can be for seniors, watch the video below.

Follow Modern Health Talk

With over 500 articles about various aspects of health reform, the future of healthcare, and tech solutions for keeping seniors safe at home, you’ll want a structured way to narrow your search, so here are some suggested ways to start.

  • Click on the Articles tab (along the top) to see summaries of the most recent articles, and notice “<< Older Entries” at the bottom of the page to see more in chronological order.
  • Mouse-over the Articles tab to see that you can list the articles by category, date, or title. By doing that you can then use Ctrl-F on a PC (or Command-F on a Mac) to search the resulting list of titles by keyword.
  • Notice the Search box at the top-right of each page, because they keyword or phrase you’re interested may be included in the body of articles and not necessarily in the title.
  • Popular Keyword Tags are shown below the Search box, and as you mouse-over each tag, you’ll see the number of associated articles. The tag “getting ready,” for example, currently lists 72 articles about preparing a home for aging-in-place, including simple tips or more extensive home modifications such as installing ramps. elevators, and home control systems.
  • Our Resources tab has links to hundreds of technologies and services to make caregiving easier and more affordable and enjoyable, including online support groups, government websites, other blogs, and more.
  • And finally, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our weekly newsletter, “friend” us on Facebook, visit our YouTube Channel, and/or follow us on Pinterest where we’ve collected images, humor, and over 1,000 healthcare infographics.