That said, many of us also struggle with providing oversight/support for them from afar, in some cases thousands of miles afar.
Whether the distance is 2,000 miles or 50, however, providing adequate elder support to ensure their quality of life can be quite a challenge, both emotionally and financially.
So, here's 6 essential how-to's from some top elder-care experts for handling this worrisome task in a way that reduces the angst, and increases the positive results.
Learn all you can about your parent’s circumstances and resources. This includes researching your parents’ health issues and prescription medications so you stay in the know about them (do not rely on your parents' healthcare professionals to stay on top of the latest information - they don't have the time or the inclination), as well as insurance coverage and their overall financial situation. A careful review of financial resources and any existing care policies helps you determine how much your parent can afford before it's too late, and how much you and your family members will need to contribute to make up any differences.
Talk to your loved one frequently to proactively manage health and financial issues. Gauge things like their energy level, their day-to-day activities, overall health, expenses, and bills. Be aware of any forgetfulness, confusion or signs of stress that may lead to mismanaged funds and vulnerability to scams or fraud. Set up conference calls with other family members, your parent’s medical professionals, in-home care workers, nursing home employees (if your parent is in a facility), accountant, financial advisor and attorneys.
Phone conversations can only reveal so much; in fact you cannot determine your parent’s real state of health unless you see them/him/her in person. In fact, doing so avoids bigger problems down the line. But travel can be expensive – whether you are a few hours away or across the country. So, plan regular trips in advance and add accompanying expenses into your budget. This will help you manage your schedule and your finances. If you begin traveling frequently, you may need to make budget tradeoffs, but planning well in advance can help minimize the impacts on your overall financial situation.
It’s crucial – whether your parent lives at home or in an assisted living facility – that at least one family member is has power of attorney and is designated as medical proxy to access medical and financial documents and accounts, make medical decisions when/if your parent becomes unable to make them, etc. If you have siblings, discuss and decide who will take the lead on the various aspects of physical and financial responsibilities (one person need not do it all). If these kinds of decisions may cause friction between your siblings, open communication and re-visiting your choices often is very helpful.
Depending on their situation, your parent(s) may be eligible for sources of financialassistance. As a long-distance caregiver, you can research the types of aid available and help your parents apply. Start with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and SHIP – the State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program, which provides counseling to families on Medicare and Medicaid. Also research other benefits your parent may be eligible for if he or she is a veteran.
If your aging parent(s) and nuclear family are open to the idea, and your parent(s) can be accommodated in your home, it will likely be less expensive than carrying the costs of two houses or funding a room at a facility. Discuss this with your parents and the other members of your household, and do the math to determine the cost differences and potential expenditures/savings that would be required with this arrangement
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