While it is difficult to think about, we all may reach a point in life where we can no longer live on our own without assistance. Recent data indicates that approximately 12 million Americans receive long term care each year. This fact may be of special concern to you if you are a child of an aging parent who does not live nearby. After all, long term care often involves many intimate aspects of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom. There are often legal and financial matters to contend with as well. If you are not available to help your loved one with these things yourself, how can you be assured that they are receiving the best possible care?
One option, of course, is to consider moving your parent into your home. While this seems ideal, it can be unrealistic for a variety of reasons. For example, the configuration of your home may not be suited to your loved one’s current mobility, or you may not live close enough to medical facilities they may need. However, it’s also possible that your parent may be reticent to leave the comfort of the home they have always known.
If your loved one does want to stay in his or her current home, one thing you can do to assist them is to be certain their environment is configured in the best possible way. Make sure they have clear pathways to travel to each room in their home, and no tripping hazards such as throw rugs or loose electrical cords on the floor. You should also install secure hand railings in the bathrooms and showers. Additionally, rearrange items they need for their everyday living so they are easily within reach. Finally, verify their medications are readily accessible and organized, and that your loved one understands what needs to be taken and when. After this, your next order of business should be to become familiar with your loved one’s financial situation. If they need help with financial management, you can discuss the possibility of having your name added to their bank account, as well as having their bills sent to your home so you can ensure they are paid.
It is important to develop a plan for keeping in frequent contact with your loved one. Ideally, the two of you should have a phone conversation daily to check in and discuss how they are feeling. You can also use these calls as a way of sensing if anything seems different about your loved one. For example, signs of forgetfulness or confusion may warrant a visit from you as soon as possible. Visiting in person as often as you can will give you the best sense of how your parent is doing.
For those times when you cannot be there, it is critical for you to be aware of caregiver services in the area where your parent lives. For example, it is a good idea to research both in-home and long-term caregiving options in the surrounding area, so you are prepared to make quick decisions about your loved one’s care when they are needed.