Long Distance CaregivingFamily caregivers who don’t have a chance to see their parents on a regular basis often notice a striking change in their behavior and physical appearance during a visit. A few months or a year can make a big difference in a senior’s ability to cope.

Sometimes the situation is an emergency that requires residential placement, but in most cases if the caregiver starts planning they can help their parent stay independent at home much longer.
Long distance caregiving is a special situation that requires a realistic idea of where things stand. Asking your parent directly, may get a defensive response. A better approach is to quietly take a look around and use this checklist developed by VNA Community Healthcare.

  1. Check the refrigerator: Is there spoiled food? Has the milk gone sour? Is the freezer full of frozen dinners while the vegetable drawer is empty? These may be signs that your parent is not eating properly.
  2. Take a look at the mail: Are there personal letters or holiday cards that have not been opened? Are there thank you notes from multiple charities that your parents never contributed to before? Most worrisome, are there piles of unopened bills?
  3. Check the car and watch them drive: Take a look at the oil and the tires to see if the car has been maintained. Check for dents or scratches that weren’t there in the past. Follow your parent in your car and watch how he or she handles stop signs and getting on the highway.
  4. Take a peek at the bathroom: As people become increasingly frail they start to have trouble with housework. The bathroom is one place where this will become apparent. There also may be evidence that they are having a problem controlling their bodily functions.
  5. Talk to the neighbors: You don’t see your family members regularly; they do. Ask about any signs of trouble such as wandering, struggling with trash cans, frequently losing keys or going to the wrong house.
  6. Observe your parent more closely: Are there any signs of falls such as bruising or limping? Do they seem to have more difficulty finding words, doing things they used to do or remembering recent events?

After you have observed, have a talk. You may be reluctant to rock the boat of a calm visit, but remember that the best present you can give your parents is early action and long term independence. Mention what you have observed and make it clear that you are asking because you are concerned. Listen before you talk and hear their perception of the situation without telling them what to do or pushing your own solution. Start a conversation about the type of help they might need and explain that you will start to gather some information about what is available.

Get help from local experts. You may want to schedule a free, family caregiver consultation to further discuss your situation and get information and support. Contact VNA Community Healthcare’s Caregiver Support Network at (toll free) 1.866.474.5230 or visit our website at ConnecticutHomecare.org.

Article courtesy of VNA Community Healthcare

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