As the Baby Boomer generation moves into their 60’s and their parents move into their 80’s and 90’s, more attention has been given to the role of the family caregiver. An increased number of resources are available in communities and online and within that data, it is evident most experts agree on the basic tools adult child require to help them gain control over stressful family situations.
1. Assess the Situation: You can find out how your parents feel about their changing health and household needs by asking simple, open-ended and non-threatening questions. “How was your last visit to the doctor?” Parent Conversations are important and you adult children should listen to what parents have to say and gauge their response carefully, so not to patronize or antagonize the older adult.
As you learn more about the situation, consider these three primary areas which may require third-party professional assessment: 1. medical concerns, 2. cognitive concerns and, 3. assessment of functional abilities or “Activities of Daily Living” (ADL’s). This last group includes items such as socialization, personal hygiene and the ability to prepare meals, take medications and manage finances.
2. Organize Information: Family members should discuss the location of important medical, legal and financial documents with parents and determine if they willing to release copies of information. If the older adults prefer to keep paperwork in the hands of legal or financial representatives, that is their prerogative.
3. Gather Support: Long Distance Caregiving often involves a team approach. Resources will vary for every family, and may involve medical professionals, social services, care managers, home care providers, attorneys, financial advisors and more. Additional support for parents is available in the form of relatives, close friends, neighbors, religious leaders and other associates.
4. Establish a Plan: As the conversation progresses, you may discuss short and long term options with your parents. Take into account the advice of professionals along with your parents’ personal wishes. Once areas of necessary support have been identified, communicate with local care givers and/or other family members to make sure things are progressing as planned.
5. Recognize Your Limitations: Frequent travel to visit parents can be stressful and creates difficult situations for jobs and immediate family. Budget your travel funds and set up a network of support through family, friends and child care services to help support your new role. Don’t overlook signs of stress, which are quite common for care givers.
As our parents live longer, many of us will need to develop an entire new caregiving skill set. Fortunately, supportive technology, services and professional resources are developing at rapid pace.
©Caring Transitions 2000-2014