As more Americans are moving to different parts of the country or commuting long distances to go to work, it can become more of a challenge to continually take care of a parent or loved one, especially when they are living in another state or another part of the country. My wife and I recently went through the challenge of taking care of a loved one from a different state. In order to help others with the same situation, here are seven tips for caring for an elderly parent from another state.
Find a Buddy Neighbor
One of the first things that really helped us care for our loved one from a distance is finding a buddy neighbor. We paid this neighbor a little cash and he helped take care of little things like getting the mail, locking the doors, closing the garage door and turning on and off the lights outside when appropriate. If your loved one is living alone and is experiencing some signs of forgetfulness, a buddy neighbor is a good person to stay in contact with to take care of little things and to take more action in the event of a problem.
Establish a Routine
Establishing a routine, even with a buddy neighbor is a good thing. There was a system set up with the buddy neighbor. Each day the curtains should be opened by 9:00 am. Opening the curtains was our sign that everything was all right. If the curtains didn’t open up by 9:00, it was the sign for the buddy neighbor to check on our family member and make sure everything was ok.
Plan Simple Meals
In the process of supporting a family, it wasn’t uncommon to make a bigger meal on Sunday or sometime during the week such as meatballs or ham and scalloped potatoes. In order to make things easy for our loved one, we packaged leftovers into freezer safe containers and delivered them to the freezer of our family member every 5 – 6 weeks. My wife and I then worked with this person to make sure they knew how to get a dish out of the freezer and how to warm up the food in the microwave. A simple meal plan, especially for someone who doesn’t have the ability to safely do cooking, is a great way to care for a loved one from a distance.
Arrange Cleaning Assistance
One activity that is difficult to deal with as parents and loved ones get older, is cleaning the house. If your loved one is having a hard time with cleaning the toilets, vacuuming and other routine cleaning tasks, then arrange for a cleaning team to come in and do it for them. Even if your loved one meets this idea with resistance, assure them that they are doing great and that you are giving them an opportunity and permission to take a break.
Arrange Lawn Care Assistance
Just like cleaning, if lawn care is too difficult for a loved one to handle, then hire a local company to come out to take care of mowing and trimming the grass. Hiring a landscaping company to come out and plant some flowers could also be a way to brighten their spirits during difficult times.
If your loved one is feeling lonely or out of touch, then encourage them to participate in new group activities. Encourage them to join a weekly golf league or play a card game like bridge or participate in a new church activity. By going out and spending time with others in a weekly activity, this will keep their mind preoccupied and prevent feelings of loneliness and depression.
Plan for the future
If your father, mother or grandparent is in good health right now, eventually conditions will change. Even if things are great right now, plan for the future. Ensure that your loved one has a will prepared and that they have the appropriate forms of health and long-term care insurance. Get in touch with a local independent and assisted living facilities and know what services they provide. It may be a difficult topic to talk about or even bring up right now, but the more you can talk about it while things are in good shape, the easier that transition will be down the road.