Being long distance from an elderly loved one can be emotionally and practically difficult.
Below are tips from AARP to help you make family visits productive and ways you can assist your loved one in time of crisis, even if you are apart.
Create a Contact List
Assemble address and phone numbers of friends, neighbors, doctors, faith leaders and others in regular contact with your parents who can be reached in the event of an emergency. Include at least one person close by who can easily check in on your loved one. Consider giving this person a key to the home if your loved one approves. If you don’t already know them, introduce yourself during a visit to establish relationships should you need to reach out. Give one copy of this list to your loved one and keep a copy for yourself. These folks may also be able to help out with shopping, transportation or visits.
Collect Important Information Before a Crisis
Keep the following information organized and easy to reach in the event of a crisis.
- Medical records.
- Notes on their condition.
- A list of medications they take.
- Names and phone numbers of all doctors.
- Name and phone number of their pharmacy.
- A list of insurance policies, the carriers and account numbers.
- Company names and phone numbers for all utilities, including electric, phone, cable and Internet.
- A list of all assets and debts (include dollar values).
- Yearly or monthly income.
- Yearly or monthly expenses.
- A statement of net worth.
- Information on bank accounts, other financial holdings and credit cards.
- Relevant legal documents your loved one has or wants to create (i.e. wills, advance directives, trusts, powers of attorney).
- Location of important documents (i.e. birth certificates, deed to home).
- Social Security numbers.
Make Visits Productive
Visiting your parent or loved one should be an enjoyable event. But take advantage of your time together to assess their changing needs.
- Before your visit, decide together with your loved ones what needs to be taken care of while you’re there, including scheduling any necessary appointments.
- Make a list of household items that need to be purchased and, if possible, go out and buy them.
- Allow time to go through mail and old papers.
- Take note of anything out of the ordinary and of what they eat. Check to see what they have in their refrigerator and pantry and if it’s sufficient.
- Look out for safety hazards such as loose rugs, missing handrails or poor lighting.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Be sensitive to your parent’s view of the situation. At first they may not want strangers in their home, or they may have trouble facing change. Maintain a positive focus, explain how the services will work and that they are designed to help your parent remain independent. If possible, offer to contribute to the cost of care without appearing to offer charity. If your suggestions of service are rebuffed, you can have an objective third party — such as a doctor — recommend the service.