Thursday, January 12, 2012

Advocating Tips: When Your Aging Parent Lives Far Away

Deborah lives in London. But she bounces back and forth between England and Bellevue, Washington, to check on her 83-year-old dad. Last month Deborah moved him into our assisted living community.

As daunting as some days are, over the years Deborah has mastered some tricks to cope with caregiving and advocating from afar. If you, too, live miles and miles away from your aging parent, you may relate to Deborah's ideas and perhaps share some of your own.

1. Use technology to bond you. When miles separate them, Deborah uses Skype to touch base with her dad. "I'm the only daughter, and I feel guilty when I don't know what's going on,"she says, smiling. The visual nature of Skype captures her dad's facial expressions and reactions, giving her a more complete picture than traditional phone calls.

2. Keep in touch with his physician long distance by using the mode of communication the doctor prefers. "Usually before an appointment, I'll send a lengthy fax to the doctor, listing my observations, concerns and questions," she says. Afterwards the doctor faxes her a summary of the visit. Other caregivers from afar say they phone their parent's physician periodically, and especially before key visits.

3. When you're in town, contact your parent's physician and other health care professionals. Note changes, and be willing to accept their advice in making a move to assisted living, finding home care services, etc.

4. If your parent's condition changes, consider hiring an advocate to accompany him to his physician's visits. Deborah is thinking seriously about this. She is also considering asking a friend or paid advocate to attend care conferences at her dad's assisted living and email her or phone her with the report.

Some of you have siblings who live close to your aging parent. How do you partner with them long distance? A future post will cover some ideas.

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