Providing care for a parent, or other elderly family member, is something many of us truly want to do. That doesn’t mean it is an easy thing to do though. On the contrary, caring for an older adult can be physically and mentally exhausting if you happen to live hundred, or even thousands, of miles away. To help you, an elder law attorney at Nash, Bean, Ford & Brown, LLP offers tips on providing care from a distance.
As the population of older American continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, more and more adult children (and grandchildren, nieces, and nephews) are being called on to help care for family members. In fact, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. The majority of those caregivers (82%) provide care for a single adult, usually a close family member. The monetary value of the services provided by unpaid caregivers is truly staggering. Over five years ago, in 2013, the economic value of all unpaid care in the United States was an estimated $470 billion. Compare that the value of that same care in 2007 when it was estimated to be at $375 billion — an increase of almost $100 billion in just six years.
Tips to Make Providing Care from a Distance a Little Easier
When a parent (or other elderly family member) reaches the point where a caregiver is necessary, it can create a practical and emotional dilemma for an adult child. If that child now has an established life, career, and/or family on the other side of the country (or the world), moving back home to care for a parent is not something that can be easily accomplished. Providing care from afar, however, can also be difficult. For those who are struggling to provide long-distance care, consider the following tips:
- Learn everything you can about your parent’s medical history, overall health, and medications. Check with your parent’s doctors and research online. Make sure though that you have permission for online access to medical records and other information protected by HIPPA.
- Do your research when it comes to prescriptions and/or treatments. To help care for your loved one you need to have a clear understanding of how any medical conditions they have impacts them. This will help you know what to expect and what symptoms to watch out for that could indicate a serious problem.
- Take the time to meet care providers. While it may be difficult to do from afar, make an effort to learn what you can about the health care professionals caring for your loved one. If someone provides in-home care you want to develop as close a relationship as possible with this person because he/she has direct access to your loved one and could exert considerable influence over him/her.
- Organize important documents. This might include his/her birth certificate, social security card, insurance documentation, bank account statements, estate planning documents and anything else that seems important.
- Put together original copies of important legal documents. In order to properly care for your loved one you will likely need the proper legal authority to do so. That authority may be given to you in the form of a general power of attorney, as the Trustee of a trust, in medical release forms, as an agent in a medical power of attorney, or as a court appointed guardian. In any case, you need to have the proper documentation close at hand in case someone questions your authority.
- Always have a contingency plan for emergencies. Anytime you are caring for an elderly loved one, whether from within the same house or from thousands of miles away, you need to be prepared for an emergency. Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready if you live within driving distance. If you live too far to drive, decide ahead of time the best way to get there quickly (plane, bus, train). If you must travel abroad, make sure your passport is up to date. Finally, have a contingency plan for children, pets, and your job in the event you must pick up and go on a moment’s notice.
Contact a Elder Law Attorney
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about providing care from a distance, or about other elder law issues, contact an experienced elder law attorney at Nash, Bean, Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.