It is estimated that approximately 7 million Americans care for a senior relative long distance. Not only do they face the emotional burdens of trying to care for a family member who lives elsewhere, but they face financial burdens as well. Some tips for dealing with this challenge:
1. Assess your parents’ needs.
Observe your parents and their environment when you visit. Look for unopened bills and letters on the counter, or other things that are out of the ordinary, such as food in the refrigerator that is well past the expiration date. Assess your parent’s mobility as well.
2. Look for changes from normal patterns.
You can also enlist the support of friends and neighbors who can contact you if they notice anything unusual.
3. Talk with your parents.
If you think that your parents could benefit from additional assistance, talk with them in a way that does not threaten their independence. You may be able to put together a plan that consists of family and friends willing to help. You might be able to arrange for grocery deliveries from the store or for someone to periodically clean the house. Make sure they know you want to help them stay in their home and independent.
4. Have an incapacity plan in place.
If your parents need assistance managing their financial affairs, a durable power of attorney can be used to appoint someone to take over these tasks, although many institutions require you to sign a new POA annually. A living trust is another estate planning tool that is used to manage property in the event of incapacitation.
5. Hire help.
If your parents require more assistance to be able to stay in their home, then you may have to hire in home caregivers to provide additional help. Home health aides may be needed if medical monitoring is appropriate, while personal care aides can assist with cooking, light housekeeping, and bathing.
An elder law attorney is well versed in the challenges faced by senior citizens and their families. Having plans in place is your best bet to allow your loved ones to maintain their dignity, as well as lessening the burden on their caregivers.