When your older loved ones begin to need additional assistance, naturally you want to step forward and give them the help they require. But this isn’t always possible, if you aren’t living near them, or are obliged to travel often. And this can be an added cause for stress and worry for both of you.
Luckily, there are options available for you and for the seniors in your life, to make sure they get the support that they need, and stay safe and comfortable, even if you can’t be with them every day.
Stay connected through communication tech.
With so many communication choices available, it’s far easier than it once was to stay in touch, even if your senior loved one has issues with mobility or with manual dexterity. You can choose the tech gadgets, the platforms, and the means of communication that work best for all concerned, but whatever you settle on, make sure your senior is comfortable using the technology.
Look into senior-friendly devices and other tech to make communicating easier and more rewarding for the senior in your life. While many older adults are quite tech-savvy, others may feel overwhelmed by the changes in communication options. If this is the case for the senior in your life, take some time to talk them through using new devices, navigate social media, and take advantage of the different video chat tools that are out there.
Enlist a support network.
It might be your siblings or other family members. It might be friends in the community. Whatever the case, do reach out to mutual friends and relations to create a support network for your senior loved one and any of their caregivers. This will help them feel less isolated even when you can’t be near them. It will also relieve the caregiving burden, to have it more equitably distributed among others.
Even if your senior has no other family in the area, and no close friends nearby, you may still be able to arrange with a neighbor to check in on them from time to time, and simply be available in the case of an emergency. Make sure you have the contact information for everyone in your network – and that your senior loved one does, too.
Be sure you have the important information you need.
Even when living further away from your senior, you may sometimes need to help them out with legal or financial decisions. Be sure you are clear about their wishes and know how to access their will, power of attorney, and any needed medical documents such as an advance directive.
Ask them for permission for access to important information such as medical records and proof of insurance. It might also be a good idea to know how to access their bank account and financial records. Also be sure you know how to contact their health care provider, legal or financial advisors, and their utility provider, in the event that you have to make big decisions for your loved one from afar.
Consider alternative living arrangements.
Plenty of seniors live happily and safely on their own and have no desire to move. If this is the case for the older adult in your life, that’s great, especially since moving later in life can be disruptive or even traumatizing. For others, however, living alone simply may not be safe.
So, wait for a good opportunity to open a sincere and respectful conversation with your senior about whether they might be open to an alteration in living arrangements. Make sure they are aware that many choices are available to them, in which their independence and autonomy will be prioritized.
Contact medical and other care professionals when needed.
Depending on your senior’s level of health, you may need to make arrangements with health care or cognitive care professionals to make sure they are cared for. For instance, if your senior needs physical therapy, see if you can find a professional who will go to their home.
Or if they are struggling with cognitive issues you may want to enlist the support of a caring and knowledgeable professional such as Dr. Mike Chua, who can assist dementia patients and help them thrive even in difficult circumstances.
Arrange to get your senior loved one help around the house, too.
There are plenty of professional services you can hire, to help the senior in your life with such things as shopping, cleaning, and meals. They may prefer to do many of their usual tasks on their own but encourage them to communicate with you if they aren’t feeling up to certain work, such as mowing the lawn, or pet care.
Remember that they will be healthier and more secure in a clean and well-cared-for living space, so consider hiring outside assistance to help them with more demanding jobs like keeping the furniture and upholstery clean. You can easily find reputable and expert services on Angi.com.
Have an emergency plan.
You may not want to think about the possibility of accidents, illnesses, or other things going wrong, but as your loved one gets older, you and they both need to consider this and be prepared. If the senior in your life is up for it, talk to them about what kind of emergency plans would work for them.
Do they have the contact information they need, should they require assistance in a medical emergency? What about a natural disaster or home damage?
Also, consider that minor accidents that were no big deal earlier in life can become serious as one gets older. Simply tripping and falling in the house could be dangerous for older adults, so be sure you have medical alert systems such as fall detection sensors in place.
While your senior loved one may not be at risk for physical harm from living apart from you, isolation and a loss of connection can really take a toll on older adults. So don’t forget to simply remind them, from time to time, that you care, you are thinking of them, and you are interested in how they are doing.
Ask them about their day, and about their thoughts, dreams, and concerns. This is an important way for you to stay close with them emotionally, even if you have to be away from them geographically.