Concern about our parents’ health and well-being is a priority for many of us today, and it is the top reason clients seek the services of an elder-law attorney.
Signs of an aging parent’s frailty, such as progressive memory loss or a decline in health, require more of your help and attention. Whether you live an hour away, or in another state, caregiving at a distance presents real challenges.
There is no right way to be a caregiver, because everyone’s situation is different.
The first step is to ask your parent(s) to provide you with their important records, phone numbers, email addresses and other essential contact information. This includes legal documents, like an advanced directive for health care and durable power of attorney for financial matters. These should be created before a health condition makes it impossible.
To keep things in order, long-distance caregivers will benefit from keeping a care notebook, which is a central place to store all critical information. It can be digital or a three-ring binder with pocket dividers. Do not forget current information on your parent’s prescriptions. If you hire professional caregivers for your loved one, keep a separate notebook to document medication administration and other basic physical and mental health status information. Instructions to paid caregivers should be in writing.
Communicate. Whenever possible, include your loved one in the decision-making process — especially choices on care and housing. Consider his or her preferences and respect their values, even if they are not yours.
Education. Read up on available care and services. Every region and location is unique in the types of services that are available; resources vary greatly by county and state.
Take care of yourself. Because caregiving can be stressful, you should have a support network. Hire help and get other family members involved. Attempting to do it all yourself is not healthy or safe for you or your loved one.
Changing needs. Remember that your loved one’s care needs likely will change over time, and it is never too early to consider possible future needs. There are many options to be considered; making informed, well thought-out decisions about your parent’s care is vital. Your elder- law attorney can help.
By Cindy Nelson, contributing writer and elder care attorney with Nelson Elder Care Law.