For several years my husband and I cared for his father in our home while we also shared the care of my mother with Alzheimer’s in Michigan. These years were a whirlwind and prompted me to write my first caregiving book, Precious Lord, Take My Hand: Meditations for Caregivers.
Long distance caregiving can be challenging and stressful.
I know this from personal experience. I drove from Iowa to Michigan and back every-other weekend to help my parents, while my husband remained at home caring for his father. The trip involved a fifteen hour round-trip drive, not counting frenzied time with my parents (grocery shopping, managing falls, trying to locate paperwork, house cleaning, etc.).
Here are a few of my top tips for those who are facing the rigors of long distance caregiving:
1. Begin researching nursing home and residential facilities early.
It was a surprise to me to learn that our top choice for nursing care for my mother had a two-year waiting list. The good news was that we didn’t immediately need to make the transition. So we put Mom’s name (and my father’s) on a waiting list. When their name(s) came to the top of the list, we had the option of waiting to move them in but still remaining number one on the list.
Researching early also gives you a better picture of the kinds of facilities that are available so your loved one can make the most informed choice.
2. Begin gathering paperwork as soon as possible.
This includes medical records, bank and financial documents, insurance papers, Social Security information, loans and mortgage information, wills and medical directives, instructions regarding safe deposit boxes and keys, etc. You don’t want to try to find this information at the point of crisis. For a comprehensive listing, check the appendices of Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey.
3. Research what resources are availabile through state and county taxes and millages in the area where your loved one(s) plans to live.
Dan and I discovered that some of the most comprehensive eldercare resources in the country were available in the county where we lived in Iowa about a dozen years ago. However, wimilar services were not available when we moved to Michigan.
This meant a shift in our finances and personal choices, since Dan’s father lived in our home. When we moved back to Michigan, we discovered that we would have to pay for certain services out-of-pocket at the same time we were taking a significant pay cut.
4. Gather the family early (as in years and decades) to discuss caregiving priorities.
For instance, you might want to make it part of a yearly gathering to begin gathering and updating information after your parent or parents hit 55 or experience a significant shift in health. Reassure your parents that your goal is to carry out their wishes to the best of your ability. The best way to do this is to prepare. It can be wise to engage the serices of an eldercare lawyer, who can advise you as the best way to extend your parents’ assets.