Trying to coordinate care from a distance becomes a challenge for many, especially since as many as 80% of caregivers are working. Add COVID-19 into the mix, and the situation becomes even more difficult, The article “When your parent is far away and you are trying to care for them” from Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette reports on the challenge and offers distance caregiving tips.
I’ve “preached” on long distance caregiving before, and the need is no less great as COVID is spiking up once again.
The starting point is to have the person you are caring for give you legal authorization to act on their behalf with a Power of Attorney for financial affairs and an Advance Medical Directive that gives you authority to receive health information under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). It is HIPAA that addresses the use, disclosure and protection of sensitive patient information. We also recommend having a stand-alone HIPPA Authorization Release and a plan to store and retrieve your health directives when they’re needed. They’re no help if you can’t find them!
Next, have a conversation about their finances. Find out where all of their important documents are, including insurance policies (long-term care, health, life, auto, home), Social Security and Medicare cards. You’ll want to know where their tax documents are, which will provide you with information on retirement accounts, bank accounts and investments.
Gather up family documents, including birth, death, and marriage certificates and military records. Make sure your loved one has completed their estate planning, including a last will and testament.
Put all of this information into a binder, so you have access to it easily.
Because you are far from your loved one, you may want to set up a care plan. What kind of care do they have in place right now, and what do you anticipate they may need in the near future? There should also be a contingency plan for emergencies, which seem to occur when they are least expected.
Find a geriatric care manager or a social worker who can do a needs assessment and help coordinate services, including shopping for groceries, medication administration and help with basic activities of daily living, including bathing, toileting, getting in and out of bed, eating and dressing.
If possible, develop a list of neighbors, friends or fellow worshippers who might create a local support system. If you are not able to visit with any degree of frequency, find a way to see your loved ones on a regular basis through video calls. It is impossible to accurately assess a person’s well-being, without being able to see them. In the past, dramatic changes weren’t revealed until family members made a trip. Today, you’ll be able to see your loved one using technology.
You may need to purchase a smartphone or a tablet, but it will be worth the investment. A medical alert system will provide further peace of mind for all concerned. Regular conference calls with caregivers and your loved one will keep everyone in touch.
Caring from a distance is difficult, but a well-thought out plan and preparing for all situations will make your loved one safer.
Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Sep. 28, 2020) “When your parent is far away and you are trying to care for them”