Did you know that approximately 7 million adults in the U.S. today are taking care of their aging parents long distance? That’s the estimate provided by the National Institute on Aging, which follows caregiving trends, particularly for aging baby boomers. Most family caregivers live within about 20 minutes of an older loved one needing care, but growing numbers of family members are caring for elders who live in a different community or state.
We see both sides of this phenomenon in a state like California. Significantly high numbers of older adults have settled in areas of the state that provide them with a comfortable climate, great social and cultural amenities, and cutting edge medical care. But we also have large numbers of baby boomers and younger generations who have moved to California with the promise of greater economic opportunities and a less stressful lifestyle, while older relatives remain behind in the communities they know.
So what is the solution for long-distance family caregiving? Is it even possible to sufficiently manage a loved one’s care from far away? The answer to the second question is “yes.” The answer to the first question: “each solution must be individual.” Looking at the how’s and why’s of long-distance caregiving is a task that must be tackled by millions of family members each year. As professionalcaregivers, our Homecare California staff must also work with distant families to ensure that the proper array of home supports are in place for an older loved one in our area.
Luckily there are many available guides to give information and support to family members facing the dilemma of long-distance caregiving. I would recommend that families, as well as other caregivers, take a look at the following three on-line publications, at a minimum:
Guide to Long-Distance Family Caregiving – This guide, created by the be.group and featured in My Silver Age magazine, addresses such issues as: how to match assistance to the unique situation, creating a long-distance caregiving plan, and knowing when to step in and get involved. The guide provides concrete information on such details as what family documents should be on hand and how to assess needs in the critical areas of health care, housing, and financing. For more information, just download the PDF of the guide.
So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers about Long-Distance Caregiving –This booklet, prepared by the National Institute on Aging, discussed the concept of care management for older loved ones. It answers such questions as “How can my family decide who does what?” and “What is a geriatric care manager?” The booklet also addresses how to obtain financial assistance for parents who live across the country. Download the NIA booklet for further information.
Since You Care – In cooperation with the National Alliance for Caregiving, the Met Life Mature Institute has developed a long-distance caregiving guide that covers key planning steps; i.e., developing a care plan, locating and utilizing community resources, organizing documents, and monitoring ongoing care. The helpful guide also provides lengthy resource lists and even offers a personal emergency information form. You can download this publication at the Met Life website.
Whatever your family’s specific caregiving needs, you can find a wealth of information online, as well as by talking with local care managers and care providers. Caregiving can be a valuable and rewarding responsibility for families, regardless of the distance, when proper information and supports are available.