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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / The Long-Distance Caregiver /   Editorial List

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The Long Distance Caregiver

During these next few weeks, many of us will be traveling to visit family members for whom we care from a distance. In a very short amount of time, we will need to make an informal assessment of our loved onesí physical and mental health, as well as their living situation. Are they taking their medications? Are there unopened bills in the foyer? Old food (or no food ) in the refrigerator? Are there hazards around the house that could lead to a fall? Many times, we will not get a positive response to our loving investigations simply because these family members do not want to see their situation change. They have lived in their home for many decades and do not want to take the next possible step toward assisted living care. In many of these cases, you actually do not have any legal rights to do more than make suggestions about their safety and care.

My friend Gracie went one step further as a long-distance caregiver and enlisted her parents trusted neighbors into her care team. She had moved across the country many years ago and had become a long-distance caregiver to her dad, who has developed a list of healthcare issues which make it difficult for Gracieís mom to easily care for him. Of course, Gracieís parents are stubbornly independent and would do no more than allow for suggestions, which they would heed or not. They would not allow any discussions about care management or in-home help from Gracie.

Gracie had become concerned on her last trip home when she noticed expired food in the refrigerator and the house in an uncommon state of disorder. She had been advised by her parentsí long-time neighbors that they try to keep a respectful watch on her parents and they had grown concerned as well. Gracie thanked the neighbors and went a step further by paying them a small stipend to make sure that they would stop by when they were going to the store and offer to pick up items for Gracieís parents, and generally keep a watchful eye on them. The neighbors at first resisted the payment option, but Gracie insisted because she wanted to make sure that even if her parents refused any professional help, that there was an understanding of the importance of the role these neighbors played as Gracieís eyes and ears.

To date, the parents are none the wiser and the neighbors are able to give Gracie a report about how her parents are doing when she comes home for the holidays. As a side benefit, her parents are actually enjoying the additional attention paid to them by their neighborhood watch team.

For more tips and techniques about long distance caregiving: Long Distance Caregiving Channel

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Gary Barg

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