Eldercare at a Distance

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    If you find yourself in the position of being a long-distance caregiver to an older family member, you may find it difficult to assess his/her needs, locate and monitor appropriate services, and stay in touch with other family members. Talk with the older adult about his or her needs. Find out exactly what he/she wants from you and encourage him/her to take the lead in arranging services if possible. It’s OK to disagree, but respect their decisions and keep lines of communication open. Find a trusted observer. Long-distance caregivers may find that information from a local family member is not always objective. Sometimes it is good to also have a neighbor or family friend, such as a member of the clergy, serve as your eyes and ears.

    Keep the family involved in decisions. The immediate family may benefit from holding occasional meetings or conference calls during which everybody’s wishes are heard and respected. A discussion of the older adult’s capacities and community resources that may help him/her to remain independent should include the older adult if possible. Don’t overlook fairly obvious resources like friends, neighbors, or church members.

    Ask the older adult for permission to talk with his physician. This will allow you to be a member of the “team,” and help reinforce the plan of care.

    Seek help early. If you’re the primary caregiver, your employer may offer nationwide access to information and referral services on eldercare, or you may be able to locate a nurse or social worker in the older adult’s community to help arrange and monitor services.

    Call the National Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for referral to help in all states. Check to see if there is a local directory of aging services by calling the County Aging Services Department or Council, the County Department of Social Services, Health Department or library reference desk. Information and publications about aging and elder care are available from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services in each county. The Aging Services Directory can provide you a starting point. You can also call the nearest Area Agency on Aging. Another resource may be North Carolina’s Care-Line, a statewide information and referral service, at 1-800-662-7030. A good book on long distance caregiving is Long Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide for Far Away Caregivers, by Angela Heath. (American Source Books, 1993.)

    You can be a caregiver without taking over. One major risk of long-distance caregiving is overly aggressive or intrusive helping.

    Be realistic about your limitations. Long-distance caregiving can become overwhelming, even if you plan ahead and have a good relationship with the older adult and other family members.

    Reference:  http://www.ncdhhs.gov/aging/article.htm#a170

    Please Vote Best of the Web 2011:  http://www.seniorhomes.com/p/the-caregivers/

 

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