Caring for an aging parent from a distance is challenging. Even if you’re in regular contact, it can be hard to stay on top of things. On the phone, your parent may assure you that they’re doing fine, but when you arrive from out-of-town for a visit, it may become apparent that they’re not telling you the whole story.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have a sibling who lives closer to your parent, you may end up being responsible for accompanying them to doctors’ appointments and/or finding local health and community services for them.
You may find that your visits with them are all about making sure they’re safe and are getting the care and support they need. There may be little time left over to simply be their son or daughter.
Enlisting your parent’s friends and neighbours
One thing that can prove very helpful is having someone “on the ground” whom you can rely upon when you’re not there. If that’s not family, it may be one of your parent’s friends or neighbours. Cultivate relationships with them if you haven’t already. They may be willing to keep you up to date on how your parent is coping. Or they may also be willing to help out by doing something like getting your parent some groceries or occasionally offering them a meal. They may also be a source of information about local resources.
You may even be able to organize some of your parent’s friends and acquaintances into a circle of support. Share The Care™ is one step-by-step method for doing this. It works on the principle that many hands make light work. Your parent can end up with a lot of support without anyone having to make a huge commitment. A team like this can ease the caregiving burden on you considerably.
You may be involved in coordinating services for your parent, sometimes over the phone and sometimes in person. One job you’ll end up taking on is making sure that there’s some continuity to your parent’s care.
One thing you’ll discover (if you haven’t already) is that the health care system doesn’t really operate as a system. There may be multiple people involved in supporting your parent, but they often don’t know what one another is doing. It often falls to a family member like you, who understands your parent’s story, to keep everyone rowing in the same direction.
Occasionally however, you may encounter someone working with your parent who is willing to help you coordinate their care. This isn’t always someone who has the formal title of care coordinator. It may be a family physician or nurse practitioner or another professional who communicates with other people involved in your parent’s care even when they work for a separate organization. When you meet someone like this, recognize that they’re a rare creature who is worth their weight in gold.
Finding suitable local support services
There are likely many seniors services where your parent lives, but sorting out which might be a good fit for them isn’t always straightforward. You can spend hours online and on the phone trying to figure it out.
If your parent lives in the Ottawa area, you can use champlainhealthline.ca to explore what senior services are available. This comprehensive listing of health and community services will help you understand the breadth of what’s available. From it, you can develop a short list of programs that sound promising and contact them directly.
Spending less time finding the right retirement community
If you think your parent might benefit from a move to a retirement community, you could use champlainhealthline.ca to get you a list of local retirement communities. However, that’s really just a starting point.
The list only contains basic information about each retirement community. It’s then up to you to contact individual communities your parent might be interested in and arrange tours where it makes sense to do so. Again, this can involve hours and hours of your time. And if you want to accompany your parent on tours of prospective retirement communities, that’s more travel for you, too.
Fortunately, there’s a more efficient strategy, and that’s to get someone who’s familiar with local retirement communities and can more quickly match you with homes that are mostly likely to meet your parent’s needs, preferences, and budget. It will likely also reduce the number of trips you have to make into town.
That’s where we come in. At Tea and Toast, we save family caregivers like you an average of 80 hours that they would otherwise spend searching for a suitable new retirement community for their parents. And in some situations, we’re able to offer that help at no charge.