Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Helping Your Senior Parent Downsize From a Distance

By Clair Wentz

Life has a way of separating loved ones, and this often is true of adult children and their parents. Distance often makes the heart grow fonder, but it does not make helping a senior accept downsizing any easier. However, adult children should help their aging parents take the steps necessary to move into the final stages of life in any way they can. Whether this means assisting them as they move into a senior retirement community or simply a smaller space, distance does not have to mean helplessness.

photo from Pixabay

If You Can, Make an Appearance

Family obligations and preferences pertaining to quality of life are just two of the reasons why adult children may live far from their parents. While living near your elderly parent is ideal, it is not always going to be an option. Still, if your parent is facing a move, it is nice to take a trip to provide emotional support while explaining to him or her, in person, why it will be better.

If you are planning to move your parents into a smaller space, explain the financial benefits that they, their children, and their grandchildren may eventually see from such a wise move. This may seem like a selfish approach, but explaining that money saved could also go toward reasonable travel and other hobbies will make it clear that it is not all about you. Downsizing will minimize the stress that an aging loved one may feel to maintain an unreasonably large property.

Taking Care of Business from Afar

If you and your parent decide that life in a senior living facility is more suitable, many of the responsibilities of caregiving will be taken care of by a staff of professionals. Many senior living communities will handle daily care and provide necessary rehab and even potentially memory-strengthening services.

For those whose parent is merely downsizing, hiring a regular caretaker is recommended. Senior Directory explains that many elderly adults can live independently, but having a caregiver who pops in a few times a week is always a good idea. Family Caregiver Alliance provides advice on how to make a decision regarding the necessity of an in-home caregiver.

Regardless of having an in-home caregiver, there are several tasks which adult children can take care of to support and care for their parent. A Place for Mom suggests that long-distance caregivers remain in tune with their loved one’s condition, staying in regular contact through phone calls.

Organize Documents and Finances

In addition, a long-distance caregiver can keep documents organized that pertain to the senior’s health and other affairs, including finances. Speaking of finances, paying medical bills is another duty that a senior should not have to worry about. If they have a Medicare plan that helps cover their bills, the duty of paying attention to any changes in their plan should fall on both you and your loved one so that you don’t learn the hard way that something you thought would be covered no longer is. There are great online resources that can keep you both in the know about these changes, walk you through the process of enrolling for or updating a plan, and for learning what is offered in their state. Coordinating appointments when necessary is another way care can be given, even from far away.

While it may seem that living hours or even states away from an elderly loved one ties the hands of a caregiver, this is not the case. There is plenty that caregivers, often adult children, can do to aid an aging loved one. This long-distance care takes many forms, whether it means providing emotional support via communication or taking care of the many administrative tasks a senior is rarely capable or willing to do on his or her own. Taking care of some of these duties should help ease the burden that distance imposes on an adult hoping to help care for a senior parent.

Claire Wentz is creator of caringfromafar.com and author of the upcoming book, Caring from Afar: A Comprehensive Guide for Long-Distance Senior Caregivers. Claire is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years. Specifically, she is interested in providing assistance and support to those caregivers who do not live near their loved ones. She hopes her writing will inform them, uplift them, and give them peace of mind when they need it.

Thanks Claire!