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Caregiving for a loved one can be rewarding and fulfilling. However, the positive feelings often coexist with feelings of stress and strain. Caregivers have reported higher levels of physical, emotional, and financial strains. These stresses can also be compounded for those who are providing long distance caregiving. In today’s world, many families are spread apart geographically. According to the “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” study by AARP and the National Alliance of Caregiving, eleven percent of family caregivers live an hour or more away from their aging or ailing loved one.

Long-distance caregivers often incur more financial strain due to travel expenses, time off work, and the need to hire help. If loved ones are cared for primarily by a close relative, long-distance caregivers might feel additional emotional strain as feelings of guilt for not being more hands-on with the caregiving role.  

If you live an hour or more away from a loved one who needs care, you might wonder what you can do to help. Long-distance caregivers, however, can take steps to make their situation less burdensome and more fulfilling.

The first step is to develop open communication with all involved. Talking with the primary caregiver, neighbors, and healthcare professionals is the best place to start is to get a realistic view of what is going on with your loved one.

Once you understand your loved one’s condition, the next important step is to consider what skills you have to offer that can be done from a distance.

  • If you have strong financial skills, you can offer to help with money management, following up on insurance benefits and claims, or bill paying.
  • If you have strong people management skills, consider stepping in to locate local resources, coordinate calendars and schedule aides and other home care providers.
  • If you are good at communicating and researching, you could be become the information coordinator. Essentially being the conduit of information to all involved in the loved one’s life and care team. If this is the role that best fits you, be certain to get the permissions needed under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
  • If you have good organization skills, you can play the important role of getting all the paperwork in order. The National Institute on Aging recommends that things such as personal records, financial records, and legal documents should be up to date in case of an emergency.

Long-distance caregivers can contribute in various other ways. The National Institute of Aging provides additional ideas in Getting Started with Long-Distance Caregiving tool. Be thoughtful of what best fits you and your loved ones.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Belmont County, dunfee.54@osu.edu

References:

Bevan,J.L., Vreeburg, S.K., Verdugo, S. & Sparks, L. (2012) Interpersonal Conflict and Health Perceptions in Long-Distance Caregiving Relationships, Journal of Health Communication, 17:7, 747-761, DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2011.650829

Harrigan, M. P., & Koerin, B. B. (2014). Long-Distance Caregiving: Personal Realities and Practice Implications. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping13(2), 5–16. Retrieved from https://reflectionsnarrativesofprofessionalhelping.org/index.php/Reflections/article/view/988

National Institute on Aging, Getting Started with Long-Distance Caregiving, retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/getting-started-long-distance-caregiving

National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001

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Stethoscope on cashIf you are lucky enough to have elderly parents, you know what a precious gift it is to have them. However, with this precious gift of time, there are some challenges that occur as they age and need your help. It is difficult when the roles of parent and child begin to shift and the children become the caregivers. One of the most complicated issues is when there is a need to take over your parents’ finances. Taking control can be awkward and complicated, but putting it off too long can make it very difficult to sort out all of their accounts and make the necessary legal steps to ensure your ability to successfully manage your parent’s money.

How do you know when it is time to step in? Watch for early signs that your parent’s cognitive ability is declining, and there is a need to step in and take control. If you wait too long, there’s a good chance that significant financial losses have occurred. Some of the signs to look for are:

  • They become forgetful about cash
  • They start getting calls from creditors
  • Their house is filled with expensive new purchases
  • They have difficulty with simple tasks like balancing their checkbook
  • Bills have been paid repeatedly or not paid at all
  • Bills that seem much higher than they should be and cannot be explained
  • Donations to charity that do not match your parents priorities

 

Raising the topic might be difficult. Older adults may be resistant to relinquishing control of their finances. They may see this as the first step of losing their independence, which is one of the top two concerns for older adults. Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families from AARP gives helpful insight on how to start the conversation. They suggest:

  1. Look for an opening: You might use an article you read about or something you saw in the news to raise the topic.
  2. Respect your loved one’s wishes: Your plan must be centered on the person receiving care.
  3. Size up the situation: Figuring out your loved one’s priorities help determine your next steps
  4. Counter resistance: Your loved one might say, “I just don’t want to talk about it.” Some people are private by nature. If your first conversation does not go well, try again.

Managing your own finances can be challenging enough, and you aren’t excited about taking on the task of managing your parents finances as well. Addressing the topic can be awkward, but if no one steps in to help, the assets that your parents spent a lifetime accumulating could be lost.

 

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County

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