Not so long ago, aging family members would move in with a nearby relative who would take care of them for the remainder of their days. Today, our mobile society means that many elders don’t always have someone nearby to care for them, so they continue to live at home or choose to move to an assisted living community.
The National Institute on Aging estimates that as many as seven million people may be long-distance caregivers in the U.S.
But even after loved ones move to assisted living, family members living far away still want to show love for their mom or dad. There are many things you can do to support and love your elderly relative, including these five tips:
Make the most of physical visits
When you visit mom at her assisted living community, make the most of the time you spend with her. Ensure that her needs are being met by community staff. Eat meals with mom at the community and observe how well she’s eating and whether the food meets her dietary requirements.
If possible, talk to medical personnel so you’re well-informed about any changes to her health status. Schedule fun outings that she would enjoy, and that don’t overtax her energy.
Commit to regular phone calls
Unless your loved one is so hard of hearing that phone calls are difficult, call mom or dad on a regular schedule. Set a time each day or week to talk to your loved one.
Get connected online
Many people increasingly use electronic tools such as video chats and e-mail to get and stay connected with elders in assisted living centers. Commonly used video chat sites include FaceTime and Skype.
Maybe you can even help dad set up his own Facebook page so he can “friend” his family members and so stay in touch with you, your kids and maybe grandkids too. Send digital movies so dad can see his family in action.
Use snail mail to stay in touch
Most of today’s elders grew up in a world without computers and electronic communication. While these are wonderful tools, not all elderly people adjust easily to using them and prefer to get cards and letters the old-fashioned way, through the mail.
Commit to sending a friendly card two or three times per month, and write letters telling dad what’s going on with you and your family. Enclose photos of your family and of interesting places you’ve visited.
Get to know assisted living staff
One of the most important things you can do to show the love for your elders from afar is to develop and maintain a relationship with staff at the assisted living residence who are most involved with mom or dad’s care.
Set up regular conference calls with key people, so you’re educated and involved in important decisions about health care, meals, medication, and new emotional or physical changes. Give staff your cellphone number and tell them to call you any time of day or night if the need arises.
It’s hard to be physically separated from our elderly loved ones, but you can be a loving participant in their life by staying connected and making sure they are receiving the care they deserve in a welcoming and high-quality assisted living community. Contact us today and ask how we keep our long-distance families connected.