How to help an aging parent when you’re far away

Another guest post today from Claire Wentz from Caring from Afar! 

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Few things compare to the stress of knowing an elderly loved one’s health is in decline, and living far away only adds to the worry. How can you care for an aging parent when you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away? Not everyone has the opportunity to relocate nearer to their aging parents or have Mom and Dad move in, but that doesn’t mean they can’t provide meaningful care and support. Here are three ways you can care for your aging parent no matter where you are.

Hire Help

In-home help is an incredible asset for the long-distance caregiver. From the comfort of your home computer, you can arrange housekeeping help, errand assistance, and even yard maintenance for your elderly loved one. For seniors who need a little help managing on their own, a home health aide can make the difference between aging in place and moving to a care facility. Homebound seniors may qualify to have in-home skilled nursing care covered through their Medicare benefits. Be aware that the Medicare Open Enrollment Period runs from October 15 to December 7. Be sure to help your loved one sign up before the deadline if you think she’ll benefit from its coverage options, which may include vision and dental care, prescription drugs, and a health savings account, depending on the plan.

Stay in Touch

The best way to stay on top of your loved one’s well-being is to talk regularly. Don’t limit yourself to phone calls; video chat is a personal way to stay in touch, and it’s not hard for seniors to use. There are several free video chat services, like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, or you can get a simplified devicedesigned for seniors who aren’t tech-savvy.

With regular conversation, you’re more likely to notice changes in an elderly family member’s physical and mental health. Symptoms of depression, substance abuse or misuse, or cognitive declinecould become apparent through face-to-face conversation, enabling you to take action before it becomes a health crisis.

Consider Assisted Living

Sometimes, an elderly parent is simply unable to continue living on her own. While the loss of independence is a difficult moment for any senior, transitioning to a senior living facility may be the right choice to keep her safe and healthy.

A move to an assisted living facility doesn’t happen without planning. Finding the right facility for your parent takes time, and your preferred facility might have a waiting list. Consider what your loved one’s care needs are; some senior living communities are known for their excellent memory carecenters, while other are perfect for seniors who are active but just need a little help managing the day-to-day. Recreational and social opportunities vary from facility to facility, with activities ranging from crafts and games to woodworking shops and dancing. Also consider location: Your parent might want to stay local, move to a walkable community, or live closer to you. Talk to your parent about what she wants out of a senior living community, and aim to find a place she’ll feel at home.

Of course, the perfect retirement home doesn’t come without its expenses. Making the right choice the first time will spare you costly moves, while long-term care insurance, veterans’ benefits, or a reverse mortgage can help seniors afford the cost of assisted living. Consider that compared to the expense of staying at home with hired care, assisted living can deliver a much higher quality of life for a comparable price.

No one wants to see a parent lose her independence, but keeping your loved one safe is the priority when it comes to senior care. What that looks like will change as the years pass; at first, your parent may only need occasional help at home, but over time, that could evolve to required 24/7 support. Staying involved — even from a distance — means that you know exactly when it’s time to make the switch to assisted living.