Article by Jackie Waters
If you’re a long distance caregiver, you typically live at least an hour away from your aging parent. Taking care of a parent who lives in another city or state can be stressful and scary. You should know! You’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. currently caring for an elderly parent who lives hundreds of thousands of miles away. And, yes, you’d love to move your parent closer to you, but she just doesn’t want to leave her home. But her health isn’t what it used to be, and her memory isn’t that great either. You worry about her falling or getting into a car accident on the way home from the supermarket.
So what do you do if you’re the child of an elderly parent who lives miles away? Here are some ideas of how you can use technology and various services to take care of your elderly parent from afar.
One way to use technology to connect with your elderly parent is to use video chat like Skype, Google Hangouts or Facetime. These apps allow you to see your parent on a tablet or computer screen. You can see for yourself if she is doing okay emotionally and physically instead of just listening to her voice on a phone. If you’re worried that your mom won’t learn how to use an iPad, you can always set it up so she merely needs to touch the screen a couple of times to get it to work. This way she can easily check her email, receive phone calls or even participate in video chat.
Adult children who live far away from an elderly parent can also use apps that house all of a person’s medical records and doctor contact numbers in one secure location. These apps allow you to log on and access your parent’s information. Other family members can also log on to the online system and review or add information as well.
Using an online care calendar can help you keep track of your senior parent’s doctors appointments. Any family members or friends connected to the online calendar can receive updates about the senior’s schedule as well. You can send out a request through the calendar for family members who can provide respite care or take the senior to the grocery store. These types of calendars keep all caregivers in the loop so there’s no chance of miscommunication or missed appointments.
Monitors Your Parent Can Wear
Today, long distance caregivers have the option of purchasing a variety of monitors that can keep an eye on their parent’s blood pressure, heart rate and how well she sleeps. Other monitors can detect if your parent has fallen and will notify you as well as emergency personnel.
Cameras and Sensors in the Home
If you want to keep a closer eye on your parent, even if you’re thousands of miles away, try installing special cameras and sensors inside her home. Cameras placed unobtrusively throughout the home allow you to view your parent’s daily activities.
You can even create a website that allows other family members to see a live video of your parent in her home. Sensors are another smart choice for adult children who are long distance caregivers. Sensors can detect the presence of smoke in a home and even if your parent forgot to turn off the stove.
Just because you can’t physically be at doctor’s appointments doesn’t mean you can’t participate in your parent’s medical care. Ask your parent’s doctor if you can take part in a conference call during a doctor’s visit. This way you’ll be able to listen to the doctor and ask any questions you may have about your parent’s care.
Elderly Parents Who Struggle with Addiction
Some adult children are taking care of parents who once battled drug addiction. It can be difficult to mend fences with your aging parent if you still have unresolved feelings of resentment. Some elderly parents may still abuse drugs, and it may be challenging to help them with the specific problems they face with addiction. It’s important to connect your elderly parent with the services they need to heal from past or current drug addiction. This will require setting aside any lingering anger and bitterness in order to get them the help they need.
No one ever said caring for an aging parent would be easy. But it can be done. Utilizing technology won’t take the place of in-person care, but it is a useful tool to add to your toolbox when you’re caring for a loved one who lives far away.