April 26, 2024

Consistency, proactive preparation, and commitment are key to successful long-distance caregiving.  As with anything, a good relationship, and the ability to have effective and meaningful conversations with those we love make things easier.  Awareness and acceptance that ‘help’ at some point will be needed, also eases the process.

Be Proactive

Ideally, begin the conversation before there’s a crisis.  Approach the subject before an upcoming visit, ideally with some time to spare so you can prepare and get some appointments made in advance.  Whether you’re the parent or the child, start the conversation.  Get your head in the game no matter which end of the spectrum you reside.

If your kids or those you will entrust to care for you live far away, start your homework and begin itemizing all things pertinent for someone to fill your shoes. Ask yourself right now… “am I sharing my reality with my circle?  Am I being honest about the state of my well-being?”  Outline your wishes and goals.  Children may not be ready to hear it, but they’ll ultimately be grateful you are assisting vs. appearing not to be embracing your reality.  If your kids or your ‘person’ refuse to discuss future plans and the details needed to care for you appropriately, put those details on paper in a sealed envelope addressed to them, and label it with their name and ICE- In Case of Emergency.

If you’re a caregiver worried about the state of your loved one, make it about you, not them.  Show vulnerability yourself – sharing you (or a dear friend) had a scare or an unexpected circumstance that got you thinking – it eases you into dialogue.  Plan a working as well as social visit to first and foremost get a good feel for your loved one’s world.   If you’re worried at all – stay at their home.  You won’t get a good read if you stay at a hotel.  What do you see/feel/think?  Assess how your loved one is doing.  Don’t go in with guns a-blazing ready for battle.  And please, reserve judgement!  Keep balance, observe, and focus on maintaining dignity.

Assess the Current Reality

Plan a working as well as social visit to first and foremost get a good feel of your loved one’s world.   If you’re worried at all – stay at their home.  You will not get a good read if you stay at a hotel.  What do you see/feel/think as you observe their daily routine?  Assess how your loved one is doing with their activities of daily living.  Watch.  Listen.  Don’t go in with guns a-blazing ready to tell them what or how they should be doing something, and please, reserve judgement! You’ve never walked in their shoes or lived their life.  Keep balance and focus on maintaining dignity.

Great First Steps

  1.  Get a feel for their routine.  Is there a routine?  Do they get up and go to be at about the same time.  Is there a routine.Does it seem like they’re  eating well?
  2. Observe medication habits.  Are meds organized and in a med-set so it’s easy to see if they’re regularly taken? Do personal needs seem appropriately addressed?  Does one spouse appear to be “covering” for or significantly “assisting” the other?  It is surprising how quickly things can change, especially after an illness or hospitalization.  Make a list of current medications – put a copy on their fridge, in their wallets and in yours too.

These are great first steps.  We all need to take stock, accept our reality, and be proactive about getting our information to the people who will help us in an emergency, so they can really assist in an emergency.

E1.Have them drive when you head out of the house.laine Poker-Yount, CDP is Director of Care Management at Visiting Angels East Valley
Reach her at
elaine@visitingangelsaz.com or call 480-833-8247

 

 

  1. Get the names and phone numbers of best friends and close neighbors. Visit doctors and update emergency contact information and update HIPAA forms.  If your “people” are not connected socially – reach out to faith-based connections if they are connected.  If not, spend some time doing research on Geriatric Social Workers, Certified Senior Advisors, and Home Care Agencies.

 

  1. Get the names and phone numbers of best friends and close neighbors. Visit doctors and update emergency contact information and update HIPAA forms.  If your “people” are not connected socially – reach out to faith-based connections if they are connected.  If not, spend some time doing research on Geriatric Social Workers, Certified Senior Advisors, and Home Care Agencies.
  2. Talk to the locals on who has a great reputation. Ask the doctor’s offices for recommendations, call the Area Agency on Aging for help on who is good.  Get several recommendations for each service so you can “shop” them and get a feel for who best seems to match the needs, idiosyncrasies of your family.
  3. If we haven’t had eyes on folks in a while, a visit to assess the current reality is a great first step. Both care partners can prepare…. Invite your that during your visit you’d love to meet their friends. This allows you both insight and the opportunity to gather some basic information while helping you in case their health changes unexpectedly. Ask permission unless the situation becomes   And while this may be a social visit, put your detective hat on and walk in with intent to gently gather the critical information you need.  Utilize this visit to begin a conversation and lay the groundwork for getting the information you need to be able to help effectively as their situation changes.  Show sincere interest vs. appearing like you just need to check something off your list.
  4. Ideally we hope to discuss this aging forward situation proactively before there’s an issue. However, if change is noticeable, on either end, we need to be open to some significant discussion and planning. As we begin to notice changes in our loved ones who are living away from us we need to set ourselves, and them, up for success.
  5. Learn who’s in their social circle, and the depth of those local connections. Who is the best friend? Arrange a get-together, if possible, to meet friends and get insight into their world. Make it casual, coffee or a meal and just visit and share how happy you feel to meet their friends.  Offer your contact information to friends in case they ever need it and share that you’d love their information too.  Having a local go-to in an emergency is invaluable.
  6. If it’s not too much, confirm that legal and medical documents in order. If they’re over five years old and especially if health/welfare has significantly changed, consider a review when you visit.  Create a list.  Items in this category include: powers of attorney, living wills, actuals wills and trusts, beneficiaries, and successor trustee status.  If funds are locked in probate they can’t help those in need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long-distance Caregiving – Part 2 of 2
Tactical Information to Gather for Long-Distance Caregivers

 

Once we’re together and have spent some quality time catching up, it’s time to have a business meeting to discuss the important items of note for someone to come in and assist us through an unexpected illness, accident or change.  Connecting our social circle with those who will ultimately respond to an emergency allows boots on the ground from both ends to be introduced and share contact information.  Both parties will ultimately need to share pertinent information with each other.

 

Confirming that legal papers and health care directives are accessible and current is the next step. Create a list.  Items in this category include: powers of attorney, living wills, actuals wills and trusts, beneficiaries, and successor trustee status.  Long-term care policies should also be reviewed.  Older documents, or those written in another state often cause problems. Unpreparedness in this area can become extraordinarily time-consuming and expensive.   Sharing these documents with health professionals and financial institutions now, allows glitches or imperfect documents the opportunity to become valid.  If funds are locked in probate, they can’t help those in need.  If someone’s health status has changed, this becomes critical, especially if changes are required.

 

Making a current list of doctors with contact information and getting your loved ones, as well as a back-up, listed with your doctors provides patients with the best opportunity for decision-making in a crisis.   When we make decisions, we are driving the bus.  When left unattended, others will make our decisions doing the best they can with what (little) they may know.  Not only do our choices become profoundly more limited when we leave it to others or we wait until the last minute, our options may not be anywhere near our wishes.

 

 

About the author 

Elaine Poker-Yount

Elaine lives with dementia both professionally and personally. She has worked with the senior and Boomer population for 25 years and is passionate about helping everyone be successful as they age. 

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