Article: LONG DISTANCE CAREGIVING - From Ask Dr. Marion
By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion
QUESTION: My 82 year old father's health has declined dramatically in the last 6 months and he now requires care. However, I live in Los Angeles and he lives in Brooklyn, and there's nobody back home in Brooklyn to care for him. What should I do? Craig in California, 48
ANSWER: This issue comes up constantly in my practice. I bet you are scared, overwhelmed, frustrated, and upset all at once. Realize you are not alone. You do have options.
If possible, the fist thing to do is travel to see your father. Determine his exact medical condition by meeting with their primary physician. Then speak directly with your elder. Ask him how he is feeling and what kind of treatment he believes he needs. At no time should your elder be treated like a child. Be sure you keep the communication on an adult to adult basis. I get so upset when a care giver treats her elder like a child. Determine exactly what his needs are and then go about meeting them before you get back on that plane to return to your "normal life."
If your father does require care that you, a sibling, or other friend or relative cannot provide, I suggest you hire a professional Geriatric Care Manager. Why? In today's hectic world, very few of us have the time, energy, or expertise to care for an elder loved one in ill health. You want to do all you can, but you can't stop living your own life, right?! You need help. Geriatric Care Managers are trained professionals who visit your elder, make an assessment, then write a comprehensive report that prioritizes what needs to be done. They can be your eyes and ears as you return to your life. If you cannot accompany your elder to their doctor's visits, a Geriatric Care Manager will go in your place. They often provide doctors with key information since when some elderly are asked, "How are you feeling?" they stoically reply, "Fine," and it may not be true.
You may be unable to fly back to visit your father and assess the situation first hand. In my 30 years as a Geriatric Care Manager, I often arrive at the home of an elderly person, then walk back outside to check the address. Many children have no idea how bad things are, since their elder hasn't been entirely honest with them. Geriatric Care Managers can provide you with a more exact picture of what is going on with your elder in their time of need. The decision to hire a Geriatric Care Manager could make a huge difference in your elder's quality of life - and yours.
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