Provide First-rate Care from Miles Away

Physician's Money DigestJanuary15 2005
Volume 12
Issue 1

Caring for an aging parent is difficult under any circumstances, butit is especially difficult for childrenwhose parents live far away.According to the National Council onAging, nearly 7 million Americans carefor older relatives or friends who live atleast an hour away. In addition, a studyby the Metlife Mature Market Institutefound that long-distance caregiversspend an average of $392 a month outof pocket on expenses. The following areseveral ways to successfully bridge thedistance at a reasonable cost:

•Look for early signs. Aging parentsin need of help at home commonly revealsigns. They may exhibit physical signs, suchas falls or worsening arthritis; mentalsigns, such as failing memory or garbledcommunication; unusual behavior, such aschanges in personality and personalappearance; or financial mismanagement,such as unpaid bills.

•Plan ahead. Put plans in place beforea crisis arises. Assess financial resources,clarify health care and transportationoptions, and locate important legaldocuments (eg, powers of attorney andliving wills). For more information onplanning for long-distance care,,,

•Include the family. Hold a meetingwith your parents and siblings and discusswhat your parents can and cannot doindependently. Make concrete plans andthen decide who will carry out thoseplans. For example, will one sibling be incharge of making sure the right assistanceis provided, while another sibling providesfinancial support?

•Identify public and private assistance.Start with the local agency onaging ( and They can provide you withsources for in-home nursing care, Mealson Wheels, and housecleaners. Considerhiring a geriatric care manager, who willassess your needs and arrange for services(

•Gather contact information. Findout the phone numbers and addresses ofyour parents'doctors, financial advisors,insurance agents, attorney, neighbors,and friends—in other words, people youmay need to get in touch with at somepoint in the future.

•Hire help. People are reluctant togive up tasks they're used to doing. Buttry to convince your parents to hire peopleto mow the yard, clean the house,and buy groceries.

•Build a support network. Beyondprofessional assistance, build a networkof friends and family to help out. Areneighbors able to check in daily on yourparents? Does their church provide volunteersto run errands or take your parentsto the doctors?


•Hire financial assistance. Hire afinancial planner to provide guidance forfinancial decisions; they can also pay theirbills and do their taxes. If they prefer,however, they can refer you to reputablefinancial services. Automate depositsand bill payments.

•Care for yourself. Long-distancecaregiving often involves frequent traveland constant worry. It can be physicallyand emotionally draining on the caregiver.And if you don't take care of yourselffirst, you won't be able to help your parents.Therefore, try to exercise, getenough sleep, eat right, and understandthat you can't control everything. In addition,it's just as important to take periodicbreaks from caregiving.

•Prepare to adjust. Health conditionsmay change. While at-home caremay suffice for a while, your parent mayeventually need to be transferred to aninstitutional facility.

This article has been produced by the Financial

Planning Association (, which is

the membership organization for the financial

planning community.

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