The Facts About Long Distance Family Care Giving

John in Los Angeles preparing for an important meeting and he receives a call from a Minneapolis hospital saying his mother has had a medical emergency and the doctor wants to know what meds she’s on, any illnesses she has and whether or not there is a DNR. He’s not only upset with this news and trying to come up with the correct information for the hospital, but also frantically trying to think of someone who could take his place in the meeting at the last minute so that he can hop a plane to Minneapolis because there is no other family there.

Judy visits as often as possible and Skype’s every day to her dad, but still she’s 2,000 miles away, can’t be there in person as much as she’d like, and she’s worried. “Dad’s getting forgetful, and isn’t as steady on his feet as he used to be.” She is also concerned that he’s not eating much of anything at all because no one’s there to cook for him. And she’s concerned that important documents and even important checks might well be lost somewhere in the stacks of papers that have accumulated. “How can I keep all this straight when I live hours away?”

If either of these scenarios sound familiar to you, it is probable that you are not only worried about your elderly parent, but you personally are experiencing one or more symptoms of the stress that many family care givers have such as loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, stomach ailments, anger and/or aggressiveness, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, lowered immune response, and hair loss.

Interesting fact: 47% of working caregivers indicate an increase in caregiving expenses has caused them to use up ALL or MOST of their savings.

–Evercare Survey of the Economic Downturn and Its Impact on Family Caregiving;-National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. March 2009

It’s no wonder. You have no way to assess from afar the factors that contribute to the well-being of your mom or dad on a daily basis. You are not alone. As the population in the US ages, long distance care giving for elderly family members has become a real challenge. In fact, approximately 7 million Americans are juggling long distance care giving with jobs and family, according to The National Institute on Aging. Lynn Feinberg, a caregiving expert, has stated that this number will only increase as economic factors have people going to wherever the jobs are. While family care giving is always stressful, distance and a demanding job can cause overwhelming pressure and worry. Feinberg says, “…it can have enormous implications not only for someone’s quality of life, but someone’s job.” Coming into work late, leaving early, giving up one’s job completely or taking a leave of absence are not uncommon side effects of family care giving.

The financial aspect of family care giving can be overwhelming as well. In a 2007 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, a division of United Group, long distance care givers’ annual expenses averaged approximately $8,728, a much greater amount than local family care givers. The study reported many had to work less hours, assume personal debt and severely cut their own spending.

Interesting fact: Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life.

–Elissa S. Epel, Dept of Psychiatry, Univ of Calif, SF, et al

-From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dec 7, 2004, Vol 101, No. 49

The answer for many family care givers living at a distance from their parents is found in home care agencies that offer in-home care for seniors, an affordable service customized to meet your concerns as well as your parent’s needs. Services can be set up to simply check in on your parent daily or weekly. Most offer companion care, and many times this is a real lifeline with the caring companion becoming a true friend. Diet, exercise, socialization and mental activity all improve the quality of life and give the senior a sense of purpose.

If you’re concerned that your parent is existing on tea and toast because they’ve either lost their appetite or it’s just too difficult for them to make a meal, in-home care can shop for groceries and prepare the meals. It’s also possible to have your parent bathed and dressed, the laundry washed, bed linen changed and light housekeeping done. Medicine reminders can be part of the service. Reporting is provided to the out of town family on a regular basis and as the need arises due to medical or other emergencies.

All of this is more affordable than you think and the best part is your parent can remain comfortable in his or her own home surrounded by the familiar objects of a lifetime. You, in the meantime, can feel confident that a local care giver is in the picture, employed by a professional agency that has your back. caregiver jobs near me

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