Strategies for families that want to be there for older loved ones, even if they can't always be there in person.
Whether you live across town, across the country, or across the world, here are ideas to help you give support at a distance.
Losing their independence (including making important decisions about where and how they live) is a common concern of older people.
Have a family/whanau meeting to talk about what help is needed now, and what kinds of help might be needed in the future. Decide who in the family will do what. Develop an ‘action plan' and review it regularly as circumstances and needs evolve.
Identify family, friends, clergy, and others who might help. When you next visit, introduce yourself to neighbours and friends, and keep their contact details. If you can't reach your older family member, calling these people can ease your mind. Let them know how to reach you and that you welcome their calls any time. They may also be willing to help with tasks your older family member(s) can't easily manage.
Such as meals or transportation, needs assessment, respite, home support, day care, St John Caring Caller, shuttle transport services etc ... and get them involved (with your older family member's permission).
Who your family member's medical advisors and home support team are (and other key people and organisations ... banker, solicitor, accountant, Public Trust).
Do this with your family member and keep them in one place. This documentation could include: birth certificate, IRD number and latest tax return, health care number, up-to-date medications list, marriage/divorce decrees, insurance details, and a copy of your older family member's will and Powers of Attorney.
With home maintenance or finances, or look into a trustee management service like Public Trust's Personal Assist.
And automatic bill payments and income deposits, and online banking.
All you can about your family member's health situation.
Establish routines for calls, send newsy letters or emails, provide pre-addressed envelopes with return address labels; send photos, home videos, record and send cassette tapes back and forth.
Or, if you are not the primary support person, be available to that person. The purpose of a visit, wherever it occurs, is to renew and reshape your relationship as well as provide the more involved carer with time out.
For frequently called numbers for mobile and land line phones. Then you can call any time without worrying about costs.
Of your older family member's local phone directory on hand. If you don't live nearby, having a directory will save time and stress if you need to organise help quickly at a distance. Online directory information is available at http://yellow.co.nz/whitepages/ and www.yellowpages.co.nz
Assess home safety each time you visit: lighting, locks, telephone access. Schedule and attend physician appointments with your loved one when you are in town, if they don't mind.
Is a one-touch medical alarm a sensible idea?
Discuss ‘what if' situations: what if your health needs require a move to another house ... a residential facility ... a private hospital? What if you need more help around the house? Talking about the what ifs will ensure that everyone is clear about what might need to happen in different situations down the road.
Assess things as needs change, and make adjustments as you go.
You are there to support, not take over.