4 Tips for Caring for Mom and Dad
by: MP Dunleavey
(MONEY Magazine) — Caring for an ailing or aging parent is never easy, but the challenges only multiply when Mom and Dad live far away.
Nearly 7 million Americans care for an elderly relative from a distance, reports the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC). If you’re among them, you know full well the guilt and anxiety of not being able to be there at a moment’s notice.
That’s to say nothing of the financial stresses involved: Long-distance caregivers spend an average of $8,700 a year providing support to their loved ones, the NAC survey found — nearly twice as much as those who live closer. Travel accounts for most of the extra burden, but there are also expenses involved with hiring people and services in your stead.
Whether your parent could use a hand with housework or requires full-time care because of a disabling condition, you want to do all you can to help. But there are only so many plane tickets you can buy without compromising your financial goals; only so often you can abandon your own household or your job.
These strategies can help reduce the stress without sacrificing quality of care.
Get Low-Cost Help
Even with a solid network, you may have gaps you can’t cover. Fortunately, your local Agency on Aging can help you access a swath of services for the elderly, including food delivery and meal programs, transportation around town, social activities, help with tax prep, and more.
These community-based resources are usually free or cost very little — and some don’t have income or asset criteria. For information, call 800-677-1116 or contact your relative’s area Agency on Aging directly. Check with your employer too, says Wagner. Some large companies offer elder-care referrals through the benefits package or employee assistance program.
Bring on a Professional
If your relative requires more hands-on help than all these services provide, but isn’t ready yet to leave his or her home, you may have to hire an aide. A personal-care aide can provide help with cooking, light housekeeping, and bathing; a home health aide or visiting nurse may be more appropriate in situations where medical monitoring is needed.
Seem like too much to manage from afar? Call in a geriatric-care manager, a certified professional who knows the local offerings and can help you assess your options, says Elinor Ginzler, a vice president at AARP and author of Caring for Your Parents.