Creating a Plan for Long-Distance Caregiving

Caring for aging parents can be challenging. It can be even more challenging when it’s from a distance.

There are nearly 42 million Americans caring for adults over 50 , according to AARP. That number is likely to rise even more as the U.S. population ages. Of that group, 11% are long-distance caregivers , meaning they live more than an hour away from the person who needs help.

Social distancing has highlighted the challenges of caring for aging parents from a distance and magnified the importance of creating a plan . Here’s how to get started when you live far away.

Gather Your Paperwork

Create a file of important documents related to your parents’ care. This includes medical records, advance directives for health care, financial information, wills and power of attorney forms for health and financial decisions.

You may need to get written permission to access medical information. The same goes for access to bank accounts and other financial services. Doing this work ahead of time means you can act quickly in your parents’ best interests if an emergency strikes. 

Identify a Local Point Person

Having someone nearby to check on your parents can be a literal lifesaver. It can be a family friend, neighbor, trusted volunteer or hired professional.

Your local point person should have essential contact information. They also need a set of keys or security codes to enter the home in case of an emergency. It’s vital to meet the contact in person to discuss your parents’ routines and schedules. If that’s not possible, connect with them by phone, email or virtually.

This person can also serve as a good friend and potentially help with small non-emergency tasks like grocery shopping and light cleaning.

Vet Emergency Resources

Research agencies, organizations and senior centers that offer resources to help elderly individuals in their community, such as the Eldercare Locator .

LOOK FOR ADVOCATES AND SERVICE PROVIDERS AT:

Administration for Community Living 
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services 

Reach Out to Everyone

Schedule conference calls with your parents’ care teams. That may include assisted living facility staff, doctors, social workers and local friends. If your parents have health conditions, research care and treatment options so you’ll be well informed to discuss their needs.

Be Tech Savvy

Technology can help you keep an eye on your parents from a distance. In addition to smartphones for video calls, in-home technology can help alert you if something might be wrong. 

Devices include video monitors, webcams, sensors, remote door locks and wearable activity trackers. There are even smart pillboxes that can send an alert to a caregiver if their parents don’t use their medication correctly or fail to access it within the designated time period.

Preparation Is Key

While nothing can replace in-person contact with your parents, being prepared for an emergency is crucial. Having both a caregiving plan and financial plan is one way to ensure your peace of mind, and theirs. 

Caregivers: Take Care of Yourself, Too

Providing long-term care for a loved one is the norm for many. While family caregivers willingly expend their time and energy, a majority may face challenges with their own finances and retirement security. Make sure you take care of yourself too. 


Need help reviewing financial needs for your loved ones (or for yourself)?

This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

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