Caring for an elderly family member or loved one can be both mentally and physically exhausting. It can also be extremely stressful even if you live close by and have needed resources close at hand. If you are trying to provide care from afar, your stress level can go through the roof. To make your job a little easier, an Oklahoma City elder law attorney at Parman & Easterday offers some tips for long-distance caregivers.
Unpaid Caregivers – What You Need to Know
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. The majority of those caregivers (82%) provide care for a single adult, usually a close family member. The monetary value of the services provided by unpaid caregivers is truly staggering – and it is increasing noticeably as the older population continues to increase at a historic rate. Over five years ago, in 2013, the economic value of all unpaid care in the United States was an estimated $470 billion. Compare that the value of that same care in 2007 when it was estimated to be $375 billion — an increase of almost $100 billion in just six years.
Providing Care Long-Distance
An increasing number of adult children are finding themselves in seemingly impossible situations when a parent reaches the point at which a caregiver becomes necessary. For an adult child who lives across the country (or the world) with a family or career rooted in that new location, it isn’t easy to pick up and move back home to care for a parent. Many soon find, though, that providing care from afar is equally difficult. If you find yourself facing this dilemma, consider the following tips:
- Educate yourself on your loved one’s medical history, overall health, and medications. Check with your loved one’s doctors and research online. Make sure you have permission for online access to medical records and other information protected by HIPAA.
- Research your loved one’s specific medical conditions. You need to have a clear understanding of the impact of any medical conditions from which they suffer. This will help you know what to expect and what symptoms to watch out for that could indicate a serious problem.
- Get to know your loved one’s care providers. While it may be difficult to do from afar, learn what you can about the health care professionals caring for your loved one. If someone provides in-home care, develop as close a relationship as possible with this person because he or she has direct access to your loved one and could exert considerable influence over decisions being made.
- Create a filing system for important documents. This might include birth certificate, social security card, insurance documentation, bank account statements, estate planning documents and anything else that seems important.
- Ensure you have original copies of important legal documents. To properly care for your loved one you may need legal authority to do so. That authority may be given to you in the form of a general power of attorney, as the Trustee of a trust, in a medical release form, as an agent in a medical power of attorney, or as a court appointed guardian. It may be appropriate to become a joint owner of property owned by your loved one to make it easier to manage the property, but this decision must be made by your loved one. In any case, you need to have the proper documentation close at hand should someone question your authority.
- Plan for emergencies. Anytime you are caring for an elderly loved one, whether from within the same house or from thousands of miles away, you need to be prepared for an emergency. If you live within driving distance, make sure your vehicle is road trip ready. If you live too far to drive, decide ahead of time the best way to get there quickly (plane, bus, train). If you must travel abroad, make sure your passport is up to date. Finally, have a contingency plan for children, pets, and your job if you must pick up and go on a moment’s notice.
Contact an Oklahoma City Elder Law Attorneys
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about caring for an elderly loved one from afar or other elder law issues, contact an experienced Oklahoma City elder law attorney at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.