February 20, 2017
successful caregiving: Be prepared before a crisis occurs
In past articles, I’ve shared with you my caregiving journey
with my mom. I took care of her long distance for 10 years when she
lived in New York City. I visited her once a month, hugged her,
communicated with her doctors, scheduled her home care, managed her
finances and helped her move into assisted living then a nursing
Long distance caregiving is challenging. Guilt, sadness
and frustration are just a few of the emotions that can wash over
you. The physical drain of traveling back and forth as well as its
cost can take time away from your family and job.
to long distance caregiving is to be prepared before a crisis
occurs. Put strategies in place so that the transition is easier for
both you and your parents. Gather information. Get organized. Be a
field agent to see how they are coping with day to day living. Have
“the conversation” to find out what their wishes are should they
Even though I consider myself young and healthy,
I have started to put together a binder with important information
for my son so that he will have everything he needs to help me care
for myself when the time comes.
Consider doing this for your
adult children and I recommend you encourage your parents to create
a binder for you. You may find some resistance from your parents.
They may feel you are invading their privacy or suggesting they are
not capable of managing their lives. Try to dispel those thoughts by
assuring them that you are not trying to run their lives but rather
that you want to be able to support them during a time of need just
like they’ve supported you throughout your life.
should have basic information and copies of their birth
certificates, social security and Medicare cards, and any military
The most important documents/directions to have in
the binder are a power of attorney (POA), living will and health
A POA is a legal document that will delegate
authority to you to make property, financial and other legal
decisions for your parents. Without this document, you will not be
able to make any transactions/decisions should your parents become
A living will ensures that your parents’
medical wishes are honored. The document states how your parents
would want to be cared for in an emergency or if he/she is
incapacitated. The living will covers such topics as resuscitation,
desired quality of life and end of life treatments, including
treatments that they do not want to receive.
health care proxy is a medical power of attorney that lets your
parents appoint you to express their wishes and make health care
decisions if they are not able to themselves.
should also include a contact list for doctors, attorneys, financial
advisors, accountants and banks with addresses, phone numbers, email
addresses, and account numbers. You can easily photocopy business
cards and financial statements for all income sources, deeds,
assets, investments, pensions, etc.
A list of health
conditions, medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, and
pharmacies should be documented and updated as needed.
Utility companies should be noted as well just in case you have to
assume responsibility for paying invoices.
This is the gathering
and organization phase of preparing to take care of your parents
from a far.
However, your most important role is field agent
when you visit them. This is the time you will see firsthand how
they are living. Are they well-groomed? Is the house clean? Is the
refrigerator full? Are they performing their activities of daily
living well? Do they seem forgetful, depressed or anxious? Are they
engaged in outside activities?
If you notice subtle changes
that cause concern, having “the conversation” becomes even more
paramount. Knowing what difficulties they are experiencing or what
their fears are will help you address them. Be patient and
understanding. Don’t diminish who they are or what they are capable
Maybe it’s just a question of talking to them more often
or planning more visits that correspond with accompanying them to
the doctor. Maybe they need someone to help clean the house or mow
As time goes by, they may need to move to a smaller
home…maybe even an assisted living community. It might be a good
idea to contact the office of aging to learn about senior living
facilities or local geriatric case managers who can be your eyes and
ears while you are not there.
Long-distance caregiving is
difficult. But there is no single way to be a caregiver. Understand
what your strengths, weaknesses and capabilities are. Plan
accordingly so that you and your loved one can both live quality
lives as caregiver and care recipient.