In today’s society, many adult children live quite a number of miles from their aging parents. When you live miles away from a parent who has a debilitating disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, the ability to care for your parent becomes much more complicated. You may have concerns about their nutrition, safety, and overall health that cannot be addressed unless you have someone who lives near them that can report back to you.
Here are a few considerations to take into account when trying to manage your parents care long-distance.
Verify the level of care your loved one needs. If they have mild dementia or occasional forgetfulness you will need a different level of care than if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Their diagnosis will let you know if they can remain independent or if you will need to find suitable long term care as their disease progresses.
Plan a personal visit. No matter where you live or what lifestyle you are leading, there comes a time when a personal visit is in order if you care at all about your aging loved one. You may be able to send your spouse or a trusted advisor, but the best way to know what is going on in your loved one’s life is to visit them yourself, talk to them about their concerns, and, if possible, talk to their health care providers.
Questions to ask and observations to make:
Is your loved one eating properly? Take a look at what is in the refrigerator – is the food fresh or spoiled? Are they eating the proper food for their dietary needs? How often do they eat? Are they eating regular meals or missing meals and therefore important nutrients? Is there an organization such as Meals on Wheels that can provide a daily nutritious meal?
How is their personal appearance? Do they appear to bath regularly? How do their clothes look – are they clean and neat or does it look like they wear the same clothing every day? Can they still do their laundry or are piles of clothes dotting the landscape of their home?
Is your loved one’s housing adequate? What is the condition of their living arrangements? If they live in their own house, are they keeping up with what is necessary both inside and out? Do they have neighbors and friends who are available to help clean, mow the lawn, do minor maintenance work, or snow removal, if necessary?
Are their bills paid on time? Do they have piles of unopened mail? Have their utilities been shut off? Is someone monitoring their bank accounts, SSI and retirement income checks, and other important financial information?
Do they have a lawyer or advocate that can monitor their legal needs? Do they have a Durable Power of Attorney or other important legal and medical documents in place? Have they made arrangements for their funeral and final resting place?
Do they have any friends, relatives, or ministers or priests visiting them? Many large churches have home visitation for those who are elderly or home bound.
Are they still driving? Should they still drive? One of the most difficult decisions to make is whether to take the car keys away from a parent. Many decisions are necessary when a parent or both parents can no long drive. Transportation issues abound!
Verifying your loved one’s needs is just a start in monitoring their care from a long distance. Tomorrow we will discuss how to make the most of your visit when you do decide to see for yourself how your loved one is doing.