As children get older, they often begin to stress about their parents’ health and well-being. Particularly, when adult children live far away and not just down the street, the fear and worry about how a parent is doing can feel almost overwhelming. By planning ahead and doing a little bit of research, home care from a distance can be as easy as providing it from next door. Here are five steps to address a loved one’s home care while out-of-town.
Determine all of the needs of the parent. Is driving still an option? Are bills being managed? Has grocery shopping become burdensome? Are personal hygiene, eyesight, and weight being maintained? Has cooking and keeping house become difficult? Check on medications and make sure all are being taken on time. As parents age, asking an adult child to take on additional responsibilities can feel complicated and burdensome. Be better prepared to step in, offer help, and find solutions by gaining a greater awareness of daily life and personal habits.
On the next visit, make minor adjustments on an as-needed basis. Perhaps a bathroom grab bar can be installed, or a non-slip mat for the bathtub can be purchased to make bathing easier. Clean hard-to-reach appliances and vacuum behind heavy furniture. Check light bulbs and replace any that have burnt out. Complete a quick assessment of property conditions. Do gutters need to be cleared of debris? Is the lawn overgrown? Will an apartment on a lower level be available in the near future? Taking on big-picture tasks can significantly improve a living environment and relieve stress.
Build relationships and engage with an extended community at parental social functions or religious events. Go ahead and meet neighbors. Ask to leave contact information and inquire about the possibility of routine check-ins. If some form of home care is already being provided, get to know those who are assisting. Attend doctor appointments. Be involved and ask questions. Being present and letting the doctor put a face to a name will communicate health advocacy.
4. Stay in Touch
Understand that support extends beyond the visit. Add the loved one’s friends to an existing social network. Communicate via email, social media, text, and video chat. Consider purchasing a device that would make talking easy, fun, and accessible. Send photos, greeting cards, and kids’ artwork-anything to increase engagement.
Be proactive and develop a document that clearly outlines a course of action. Develop an arrangement for handling emergency situations. Create a shared calendar of doctor’s appointments, due dates for bills and account information, important dates, and upcoming events. Share end-of-life wishes, even if it is a difficult topic to bring up. Discuss important matters with siblings and listen to feedback. Enable everyone to voice concerns and suggestions. Finally, consider hiring home care specialists, discussing long-term finances with an estate planner, and looking into local advocacy services for the elderly.