Being a caregiver to a senior loved one can be difficult, even when you are next door or across town. But what if you are several time zones away? Trying to provide (or monitor) care from a distance can seem almost impossible. When you are far away, it is difficult to know what to do and where to turn when your parent or loved one starts showing signs of aging and needs some type of ongoing assistance.

elderly care

Minimizing Risks

Most seniors do not want to admit that they are slipping. Who would? Even if they do, most do not want to ask for help. Understandably, seniors do not want to give up control of their lives, do not want to give up their car keys and do want to manage their own money. Unfortunately, with increasing birthdays, come increasing risks.

Take driving, for example. As we age, our reflexes slow. A car accident can injure your senior loved one. It can even wipe out their life savings if the accident injures or kills another person. Many scammers also prey on seniors and devise schemes to get their money.

Take Action Now

There are things that you can do to minimize these risks to your loved ones, protect them and allow them to remain in control as long as possible. First, have “the conversation.” Sit down and talk with them about these risks. This can be the most difficult part of all.

When you have this talk, you should discuss things that can happen to take away their independence and security. Discuss the importance of putting a plan in place so everyone is on the same page. The talk should include:

  1. Their wishes for emergency or end-of-life medical care (i.e., life support, feeding tubes, blood transfusions, organ donation, etc.);
  2. Who they want to make these medical decisions, if they are unable to speak for themselves;
  3. Their thoughts on long-term care, to include preferences for the location of that care and how to pay for it; and 
  4. Their estate plan (or lack thereof), the location of relevant legal documents and the attorney who prepared them.

Any existing legal documents should be reviewed to ensure that they are current. There is no time like the present to make sure the legal plans are ship-shape. Our firm knows all too well that estate plan or life planning documents that are not reviewed since the time of execution come with complications. Do you really want unpleasant surprises later?

Are there other family members who also share a stake in the well-being of your senior loved one? If yes, then it is mission-critical that you communicate as well. All of you should be involved in the conversation and each of you should bear responsibility for some aspect of their care. Failure to communicate has led many families into unnecessary (and unpleasant) drama when expectations are not articulated and addressed upfront. Failure to communicate also can lead to expensive and timely court proceedings such as probate.

Ultimately, when the time comes to act, there must be some agreed method of accountability to ensure that everything is being done in the best interests of your senior loved one. Remember that your own children will most likely model the caregiving you give to your senior loved ones.

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