Our good friend Claire Wentz, Author of the upcoming (bestseller) book, Caring From Afar: A Comprehensive Guide For Long-Distance Senior Caregivers, wrote this article exclusively for our Royal Suites readers and families! Thank you Claire.
Today’s generation of seniors are choosing to age at home as long as possible. If your parent or other loved one is aging and you don’t live near them, you may feel worried about their well being. How do you know if they’re happy, healthy, and safe, and how do you know when it’s time to get help? Modern technology gives you the ability to provide care from a distance, but at some point, you may also need to help them transition into a nursing facility.
How you can help your loved one live independently at home
- Talk openly and early: If you’re helping care for your aging loved one, start having conversations about legal, financial, and health issues early. These conversations may not be easy, but they are necessary, and can give you the tools you need to help coordinate their care. You can simplify life for you both by helping with their finances and automating as many payments as possible, but you will need their permission.
- Coordinate help: You can’t manage everything from far away, but you can coordinate the care they need. Search the internet or use any contacts you have in their area to ask for referrals for local services. US News suggests hiring a geriatric care manager, who can help you find medical services and manage your loved one’s medical care.
- Use technology wisely: Technology can’t replace real life contact, but it can help you stay connected and reassured that your loved one is OK. It’s a good idea to keep a computer or tablet in your loved one’s home so that you can send them reminders and communicate via video chat. Their local care providers can also use that device to communicate with you and send you real-time updates. As their long-distance care provider, you can also use apps to coordinate their local care, and even to connect with other long-distance caregivers for support.
How to know when staying home is no longer working
Even with modern technology and senior-friendly, downsized homes, there may come a time when your loved one would be safer and have a better quality of life in a senior living facility. Keep an eye out for signs that your loved one is no longer staying healthy: sudden weight loss, lack of personal hygiene, and any signs they have been injured are just a few things to look for. Senior living facilities can do everything from providing basic help with daily activities all the way up to skilled nursing care, so think about your loved one’s needs to determine what type of facility will be the best fit. If you’re overwhelmed by the wide array of options out there, check out AARP’s breakdown of the different types of facilities and what each type offers.
How to budget for nursing care
Figuring out what kind of care your loved one needs is only one piece of the puzzle. Figuring out how you’re going to pay for it puts it all together. As part of the early communication you should be having, talk with your loved one early about their financial situation and options. This will give you both an idea of what they have available so you can budget for nursing care costs. Consider purchasing a long-term care insurance policy if your loved one hasn’t done this already. Just like with everything else, do this early to make it easier on your budget and to maximize the benefits. Be thorough in researching all available options. Look into whether your loved one qualifies for Medicare or Medicaid, and veterans may be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration.
The key to helping your loved one through this process, from coordinating their home care to transitioning them to a nursing facility, is to open the lines of communication. Take advantage of technology to make this even easier and to give you the peace of mind that your loved one is getting the care they need.
Claire Wentz is creator of caringfromafar.com and author of the upcoming book, Caring from Afar: A Comprehensive Guide for Long-Distance Senior Caregivers. Claire is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years. Specifically, she is interested in providing assistance and support to those caregivers who do not live near their loved ones. She hopes her writing will inform them, uplift them, and give them peace of mind when they need it.