Long Distance Caregivers Receive Help
September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
Living in a different city or state — miles from aging parents — can be very difficult. Keeping in touch by telephone and making long trips to help parents or aging relatives with their needs can be time-consuming and not nearly as effective as being available full time in person.
One of my clients spent two years juggling his restaurant business with multiple daily phone calls to his elderly parents, checking on their needs and answering their questions. Family vacations were spent traveling the 500 miles to his parent’s home to personally take care of home maintenance and provide health care visits to their doctor. During his last visit, Mark noticed his father had difficulty walking and his mother was confused as to which medications she was to take and at what time. This alarming change in his parent’s condition concerned Mark that his parents’ care needs required more than frequent phone calls and vacation visits. Running his business and handling his parent’s long distance care was now becoming very challenging.
According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association of Los Angeles & Riverside, California, there are approximately 3.3 million long distance caregivers in this country with an average distance of 480 miles from the people they care for. The report also states that 15 million days are missed from work each year because of long distance care giving. Seven million Americans provide 80% of the care to ailing family members and the number of long distance caregivers will DOUBLE over the next 15 years. Long Distance Caregiver Project — Alzheimer’s Association LA & Riverside, Los Angeles, CA (May 15, 2002, National Web Seminar by Judith Delaney, MFT, Clinical Coordinator).
The long distance caregiver is a new role that is thrust upon children and younger family members. Families used to live closer together, with children residing and working near their parents. But nowadays family members are more distant from each other. Society, today, is recognizing this. Some caregiver services have tweaked their programs to work as liaisons between long distance caregivers, senior loved ones and local medical professionals.
At my firm, we do Life Care Planning. What this means is that, in addition to legal and financial advice on how to pay for long-term care, I have an Elder Care Coordinator on staff. Elder Care Coordinators are care managers who assist caregivers, friends, or family members provide care for loved ones. They evaluate and recommend care for the aged. Care manager professionals are becoming extremely popular as the caretaker liaison between long distance family members and their aging elder loved ones.
Jacqueline Marcell — author of “Elder Rage, or Take My Father…Please! How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents” (Impressive, 2000) — says, “The most important thing to do is to find a geriatric care manager in the area where your loved one lives. She will have knowledge of all the services in the area and can be your eyes.”
Below is a partial list of what an Elder Care Coordinator might do for our clients:
- Assess the level and type of care needed and develop a care plan
- Take steps to start the care plan and keep it functioning
- Make sure care is in a safe and disability-friendly environment
- Resolve family conflicts and other issues with long-term care
- Become an advocate for the care recipient and the caregiver
- Manage care for a loved one for the out-of-town families
- Conduct ongoing assessments to implement changes in care
- Oversee and direct care provided at home
- Coordinate the efforts of key support systems
- Provide personal counseling
- Help with Medicaid or VA benefit qualification and application
- Provide placement in assisted living facilities or nursing homes
- Monitor the care received in a nursing home or in assisted living
- Assist with the monitoring of medications
- Find appropriate solutions to avoid a crisis
- Coordinate medical appointments and medical information
- Assist families in positive decision making
- Develop care plans for older loved ones not now needing care