Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tips for Long Distance Caregivers.

In this Sunday's paper in RI, there was an article written by Pamela Yip who writes for the Dallas Morning News. The article is called 'Taking care long distance'. Pamela discusses a variety of things to think about and put in order for your elderly parents if you are a distance away. She refers to Kathy O'Brien, senior gerontologist at the MetLife Mature Market Institute - "We know that many more people are caring for family members than ever before". Another person, Kay Paggi, a Dallas geriatric care manager says "The big issue for long distance caregivers is not really knowing what is going on"; "A lot of time, Mom and Dad rally don't want you to know what's going on. They are used to being the parent, the wise person, the independent person, the problem-solver. They are not going to tell you they are failing every day, even if you ask".

Many long distance children worry about falls, eating habits, medications. You don't always have current information, if any. What if there is the beginning of dementia or Alzheimer's? Are you getting the correct information when you speak with your parents?

According to the article, the experts advise:
* create a network: have a care plan in place where you have people in place to call you or you can call and who can oversee your folks. Get to know their neighbors. Get an emergency response service pendant/watch with a button they can push for help.
* make sure you have a detailed list of doctors (and their phone numbers) and medications (why they are taking them), get friendly with your parent's pharmacist, make sure everyone knows what over-the-counter vitamins or supplements they take or herbal teas.
* maybe hire a geriatric care manager - they can go to the house and do an assessment of the home and how your parent(s) function. The care manager can put a plan into action and supervise the homemaker who goes in. It states that the care manager costs $100 - $150 per hour.
* use the web - pay their bills online for them, see if you can get copies of Medicare information to make sure they keep up with medical bills.
* get legal authority for housing, finances and medical. Get powers of attorney to handle financial matter if they cannot do things and a medical one to make decisions if your parent cannot make decisions. Get HIPAA authorization so you can have access to medical information.

There is good information here that will work for children who are close by as well. Basically, as the old saying goes 'you need to have your ducks in a row'.

Footnote: I lived near mom but we did do all these things. I knew her doctors very well from going to appointments with her. She verbally told them that they could speak to me any time I called but we did end up doing the appropriate paperwork. We did give the pharmacist a copy of the power of attorney so I could talk about her meds. We found a local agency that was able to make modifications to her home so it was easy to stay there longer.


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