Tips for caring for elderly parents from afar

07/18/2014 2:48 PM

07/18/2014 2:49 PM

Just a generation ago, aging family members typically had at least one relative living nearby. These days, many are being cared for by baby boomer children who live far away.

Balancing careers and kids of their own, these grown children may find it difficult to move closer to parents who have begun to need daily help. Caregiving has become “an unexpected second career” for many people in their 50s and 60s, says Tamar Shovali, who studies gerontology and teaches at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

How can you provide care and support for an aging parent from afar?

Make the most of visits

Make the most of periodic visits to your parents’ home, says Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiving expert.

• Look around to see what sort of shape it is in, and consider modifications (hand rails in a hallway?) that might make it safer and more convenient.
• Meet briefly with doctors your parents see regularly so you can develop a connection. Make sure a prescription written by one doctor isn’t conflicting with a prescription from another.
• Choose someone who lives nearby and is willing to visit your parents regularly to note any changes in their health, behavior or daily abilities. The website is one place to start searching for someone to hire.

Seek out technology

• By creating a Google Plus group that includes parents, adult children and even grandchildren, distance caregivers can create a virtual support system. There is strength in numbers: The more relatives and friends who are aware of an older person’s daily habits and experiences, the more likely someone will notice changes that need attention.
• The Reunion Care app keeps medical records in one spot, plus contact information for doctors.

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