By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend any long-distance caregiving tips that can help me help my elderly father who lives in another state? He has physically declined over the past year, but is determined to stay living in his own house.
Providing care and support for an aging parent who lives far away can be very difficult and stressful. Here are some tips and resources that can help.
When it comes to monitoring and caring for an aging parent from afar, you have a couple options. You can either hire a professional to oversee your dad’s needs, or you can manage things yourself by building a support system, tapping into available resources, and utilizing technology devices that can help you keep tabs on him.
If your dad needs a lot of help, you should consider hiring an “aging life care professional” who will give him a thorough assessment to identify his needs, and will set up and manage all aspects of his care. These professionals typically charge between $100 and $200 per hour, and are not covered by Medicare.
To find a professional in your dad’s area, ask his doctor for a referral or visit the Aging Life Care Association website at AgingLifeCare.org.
If your dad only needs occasional help, or if you can’t afford to use a care manager, here are some things you can do yourself to help him.
Assemble a support system: Put together a network of people (nearby friends or family, neighbors, clergy, etc.) who can check on your dad regularly, and who you can call on from time to time for occasional help. Also put together a list of reliable services you can call for household needs like lawn care, handyman services, plumber, etc.
Tap local resources: Most communities offer a range of free or subsidized services that can help seniors with basic needs such as home delivered meals, transportation, senior companion services and more. Contact the Area Aging Agency near your dad – call 800-677-1116 for contact information – to find out what’s available.
Use financial aids: If your dad needs help with his financial chores, arrange for direct deposit for his income sources, and set up automatic payments for his utilities and other routine bills. You may also want to set up your dad’s online banking service, so you can pay bills and monitor his account anytime. Or, if you need help, hire a daily money manager (aadmm.com) to do it for you. They charge between $25 and $100 per hour.
Benefitscheckup.org is another excellent resource to look for financial assistance programs that may help your dad, particularly if he’s lower-income.
Hire in-home help: Depending on your dad’s needs, you may need to hire a part-time home-care aide that can help with things like preparing meals, housekeeping or personal care. Costs can run anywhere from $12 up to $25 per hour.
To find someone, ask for referrals through your dad’s doctor or area hospital discharge planners, or try websites like Care.com, CareLinx.com, areFamily.com or CareSpotter.com.
Utilize technology: To help you keep tabs on your dad and manage his care from afar, there are various technologies that can help.
For example, there are motion sensors (like Silver Mother – sen.se/silvermother) and video cameras (nest.com/camera) that can help you make sure he is moving around the house normally; computerized pillboxes (medminder.com) that will notify you if he forgets to take his medication; simplified computer tablets (grandpad.net) that provide important face-to-face video calls; and a variety of websites that can help you coordinate care (lotsahelpinghands.com) and medical information (reunioncare.com) with other family members.
For more tips, call the National Institute on Aging at 800-222-2225 and order their free booklet “Long-Distance Caregiving: Twenty Questions and Answers.”
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.