When you live far away from your parents, you’ve probably established a routine. A phone call one day a week to check in. You share everything that’s happened during the week. You assume they do too.
But then you start noticing subtle changes. They become vague. They aren’t as willing to share.
Then you visit and find expired food in the fridge. Maybe a small dent on the car.
Then things escalate quickly. You receive a call about a minor car accident. Or a call from one of their friends saying they are in the hospital. And suddenly your world escalates out of control. You have a new job on your hands and it’s anything but exciting. What do you do now?
Change your line of communication
As you start to discover little things, it’s easy to put them aside and ignore them. But when you live hundreds or thousands of miles away, you don’t have that luxury. Bring up the things that concern you. Bring up things that seem out of place. Even if your mom or dad push it aside and won’t open up, it sets the dialog for the future. It gives you a chance to show your support.
Find your allies
When you visit, will your loved one allow you to go to doctors appointments? Can you attend the meetings and events they go to on a regular basis? Find allies in the people closest to your parents. Leave your contact information with people that will help you stay in the loop. Your mom might leave out the fact she was in an accident. But a trusting neighbor might give you the heads up as to how bad it truly was.
Put together a care book
The next time you visit, put together a file or notebook filled with the most important information in your loved one’s life. Add in medical information, financial advisers, lawyers, friends, and neighbors. Include all prescription information, including the pharmacies they use, and the dosage of each medicine. Gather all information about your parents’ income and assets, including where they bank, what credit cards they have, insurance policies, even passwords they use to complete phone and online transactions. The more information you have on your end, the easier it will be to handle any situation as it arises.
Are your parents willing to let you have power of attorney? Are they ready to release all information to you and allow you to help in certain situations? This is something that may have to grow over time. Start small. Talk about it frequently to get your parents comfortable with the idea.
Coordinate with the rest of the family
Do you have siblings that also share in responsibility? Or maybe another family member that can take on part of the responsibility? It’s important to have a family meeting and decide who takes care of what. Nothing can be more frustrating to all of you, including doctors and other professionals, is having to repeat yourself again and again. Who will be in charge of what? You should also set up regular meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. Can’t agree between yourselves? Find a mediator who can help.
Line up home services
For many adult children, they rarely learn about their options before they need them in an emergency situation. Assisted living or nursing care is usually all they understand. But there are many options out there that can help your loved one stay strong and independent for as long as possible. In home care gives your loved one the individualized attention they deserve while staying in the comfort of their home. It also gives you peace of mind.
What questions can we answer for you as you go through this new phase of life?