Helping From a Distance
Caregiving and Senior Care Advice Column from Horizon Home Care & Hospice's CEO, Mary Haynor.
Issue No. 112 - 7/29/2017
My father lives on the west coast and I live in the Midwest. He is in his late 70's and doing fairly well. What I worry about is how I will help him manage in the coming years. My job keeps me where I am and he has no desire to revisit winter. What would you suggest I do to ensure a secure future for him despite the distance barrier between us?
You are one smart son. Most people simply wait until a crisis happens and then scramble. When it comes to the health of a parent, there is a normal amount of denial, uncertainty, and fear that makes planning even harder than, for instance, preparing for college.
Distance makes your situation all the more difficult. I am assuming that you have no siblings near your father to help with the planning. So let us get started.
First and foremost stay close to your father. Talk to him frequently. Make a visit as often as you can. Have him spend time with your family. What you are accomplishing here is strengthening your relationship and giving yourself the opportunity to notice any changes in the health of your father, particularly cognition, and the ability to safely care for himself.
Another reason is that there are individuals out there who will take advantage of the elderly for personal gain. Sometimes this starts off very innocently with an offer of help in some form. Make sure he knows that you are "not too busy" to be contacted.
Talk finances with your father. I realize this is often difficult and he may not want to open up, but it would be very helpful in planning. Ample amounts of cash allow for more choices in the type of care if needed.
Try to find out what he is thinking today about care for 20 years from now assuming he lives close to 100, which is becoming more common. It might be easier for him to talk about well into the future than five years from now.
Find out his philosophy about health care should someone else, you need to make decisions for him. We call this Advance Directives in health care.
All of these questions cannot be asked in one quick conversation. Start with getting as close as you can to real conversation. Then you can begin the actual dialog about caring for him. As he approaches 80, it is going to be more and more important that you start to know the deeper thoughts of your father so that you can help him live the life he envisions. Whatever that may be.
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