It’s very common for adult children to move away from their parents in order to lead their own lives – nothing wrong with that, except things can become a little difficult once your parents start to reach their twilight years. When your parents start to find it difficult to manage their lives and need more help, children living far away can experience a lot of guilt and worry. It can be all too easy to succumb to the guilt of not being physically present for your parents, even if you speak to them regularly on the phone or online. However, there’s no need to be hard on yourself for not living close by – you can still find ways to be an active presence in their lives and help as much as possible. There are plenty of things you can do to ensure your parents are safe and well looked after – even if you live thousands of miles away. Here are some of them.
Create an emergency plan
If your parent suffers an accident or experiences an emergency situation, it’s a smart idea to have a plan in place before you need it. Your plan might cover who to call in such a situation, how you will get to your parents, how pets will be looked after if someone needs to go to hospital etc. Think about everything that might happen and try to cover all possibilities in your plan. Make sure your parents and anyone else who might be involved have a copy of the plan and are aware of what it contains.
Set up a support network of local contacts
To action this plan, and to ensure your parents have trusted people around them who they can turn to, set up a support network of local contacts. This might include neighbours, friends, health care professionals, advocates, social workers and even local pet-sitters. Talk to these people and let them know your concerns about your parents, and ask if they’d be willing to help in a specific way. Don’t just ask for general help, instead ask their neighbour to keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look right, for instance, or ask a trusted friend to check in on them occasionally and let you know how they seem. Knowing that your parents have people around to support them when necessary will go a long way towards easing your mind.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it super easy to use technology to stay in touch, and monitor your parents’ health and wellbeing from a distance. Use FaceTime or Skype to regularly connect with your parents, catch up about any problems they may be having and remind them to take medications.
Make sure you check in often on your parents, even if it’s just a phone call every few days or so to make sure they’re travelling alright. You could even consider playing interactive games with them online, such as virtual chess or checkers.
Go with your parents virtually to medical providers
In a similar vein, there’s no reason you can’t attend medical appointments virtually with your parent. They would just need to take their device along to the appointment, and call you before they go in, so you are able to talk to the doctor, take notes and help remember instructions or information. This is especially helpful if they are struggling with memory loss issues and tend to forget the doctor’s instructions or advice. As well, you can advise the doctor of things you’ve observed or are worried about.
Of course, you would need your parent’s permission to attend their doctor’s appointments with them – some people may wish to keep their visits private, which is their right.
Learn about any health conditions they may have
If your parent is suffering from a medical condition, learn as much as you can about it and what treatment is necessary. This will help with planning for emergencies, as well as allowing you to understand more about the course of the condition and what exactly is going on. You’ll also be more informed when talking to your parent’s doctor.
Keep a care notebook
Another good idea is to keep a notebook or document where you can collect and record details of your parents’ care. This will make it easy to find all the information you need and to share it with other family members (such as your siblings), caregivers or primary health providers.
As well as virtual meetings, plan regular visits if at all possible, where you can see your parents in person and provide practical help if necessary.
Help with finances and paying bills online
Chances are your parents may not have converted to online bill payments and financial management yet, but you can help them with this. Offer to help with their financial management tasks, such as money management and bill paying, as this will likely save them a fair bit of time and effort.
Arrange for some help in the home
Even if you can’t be nearby, you can help your parents access help in the home if they are struggling to manage on their own. Organisations such as Meals on Wheels can provide hot and healthy meals delivered right to their door. As well, the Commonwealth Government provides a range of programs and services which provide support in the home, allowing older people to remain in their own home for longer. Your parents might be able to get help with home maintenance, domestic chores, cooking, nursing care, personal care and transport. An aged care assessment is necessary first, to assess the level of care needed by your parents.
Click here to find out about Finley Regional Care’s Complete Care home care packages.
Get started on an aged care assessment if necessary
If you feel your parents might benefit from some help in the homes, get them started on the process of an aged care assessment. This will determine the level of care they will need. Visit the My Aged Care website to find out more.
Research care options
As well, it’s wise to research care options for your parents before they need it, so that an emergency doesn’t leave you scrambling for help. Care options for the elderly range from getting help in the home to living in a residential care facility, and it’s necessary to know what your parents would prefer given the choice.
To answer all your questions about aged care, have a read of this handy article here.
And perhaps the most simple one of all – just ask your parents if there’s anything they need or want, and how you can be most helpful. People are usually grateful to be consulted and treated like adults, not children where decisions are made for them. And who better to know what they need than the person in question?
Above all, stay engaged and available to your parents, and give them as much support as possible from a distance. While you can’t do everything for them, there’s a lot you can do to ensure your parents enjoy a happy and healthy old age.