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A Caregiver’s Plight: Living Too Far Away to Help

About 43.5 million Americans provide or manage care for a friend or relative who is 50 years or older, and the number is increasing. Declining physical health and dementia cause many older adults to require more and more assistance as they get older. Ensuring loved ones have healthy meals, reliable transportation, a safe living space, and the proper medication is challenging even when the caregiver lives close by.

Unfortunately, many adult children live hours or even states away from their aging loved ones. What happens if Dad falls and breaks his hip, and you’re eight hours away? Who will ensure he gets the care he needs? One way to alleviate the burden and stress from long-distance care-giving is to hire an Aging Life Care Specialist.

Deb Johnson, a Columbus, Ohio, native faced exactly that long-distance care-giving. She served as the primary care giver for her father, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, more than 200 miles away. “I was trying to navigate everything myself,” Johnson said.

After months of trying to care for her father from hours away, Johnson hired an Aging Life Care Specialist to assist. An Aging Life Care Specialist is a medical professional with specialized training in designing and enacting individualized care plans for aging clients and those dealing with ongoing health concerns.

Tish Platt, a specialist with Staying Healthy at Home who lives in Lexington, began serving as Johnson’s father’s care navigator. Now she takes him to the doctor and keeps track of his medicine so Johnson can rest assured her father is getting the care he needs.

On one occasion, his legs became swollen, and Tish went over to check on him. She took him to the emergency room and stayed there with him until Johnson traveled the distance. “Tish has gone from service provider to friend and family member,” Johnson said. “I’m 200 miles away. I don’t know how I’d manage without her.”

Aging Life Care Specialists assist in many different ways depending on the situation. They can monitor an aging loved one for a short time while a caregiver is away, evaluate the safety of a living space, help find more suitable housing, take clients to the doctor, take clients to the ER, and much more. If an aging loved one has a complex health situation, even caregivers who don’t live far away often opt to hire an Aging Life Care Specialist.

Every person and situation is different. Remember to communicate with your loved one as much as possible about decisions regarding his or her care and health. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the decisions and forget to take time to involve the care recipient in the process.

When it comes to choosing an Aging Life Care Specialist, try to arrange a meeting with you, your loved one, and the specialist. That way you can ensure that your loved one is comfortable interacting with the specialist and understands what he or she will be doing to help. Remember to communicate with both your loved one and the Aging Life Care Specialist while you’re away as well.

Source: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/long-distance-caregiving-parents/