We live in a very mobile society where family members don't always live in the same town or even the same state. We estimate that approximately 466,000 Australians are long-distance caregivers, mostly caring for ageing parents who live more than an hour away.

"It's only natural that adult children of older Australians will have some concerns about how their ageing parents are doing, especially if they are apart during the upcoming holiday season," says Karen Sahli of Right at Home Australia. "Identifying strategies for long-distance caregiving will make the challenges of caring for ageing parents or loved ones more manageable."

Below are tips from Right at Home for long-distance caregiving:

  1. Establish Support Contacts in Your Ageing Parents' Community – Make a list of family, friends and neighbours' phone numbers and addresses. Ask if you can check in with them to find out how your loved one is doing. They may also be willing to stop by your loved one's home for regular visits.
  2. Stay in Touch With Your Parents – Keep in regular touch with your loved one by phone, letters, and e-mail. Record any changes you sense in his or her personality or ability to function day by day.
  3. Make Observations During Visits – When you are able to visit your parents, pay attention to any changes in grooming, eating, or social activities. Look for changes in the way he or she manages money, cleans, shops, and gets around.
  4. Keep Track of Important Information – Find out where your parents keep important documents such as his or her insurance policies, bank account numbers, investments, living will and power of attorney (for legal, financial, and health care purposes). It's also beneficial to have a list of physicians that your relative is seeing, and any hospitals or clinics that are involved in his or her medical care, and any medications he or she is taking.
  5. Look into Professional Help Options – There are several options for ageing parents who need additional assistance. In home caregiving agencies, such as Right at Home, provide services such as companionship, meal preparation, and light housekeeping to help seniors continue to live independently with the help of a caregiver.
  6. Identify Community Resources – Research local area agencies on ageing, senior centres, churches, synagogues, or other volunteer organisations about available resources for older Australians.
  7. Involve Your Parent – Allow your parents to retain as much decision-making ability as possible. Remember that your primary objective is to help your loved one to fulfil his/her needs, not to take over your relative's life. In some situations, when your loved one is unable to make decisions, you may need to do so on his/her behalf.
  8. Take Time for Yourself – Caregiving can have an emotional and physical toll on caregivers, especially when done long-distance. Make sure you are eating right, getting enough rest, exercising regularly and keeping up with your own medical needs.
  9. Remember, the holiday season is a time for family, togetherness and making memories. By taking the time to address these long-distance caregiving issues, your family will have the much-needed sense of security, comfort and hopefully the ability to create new memories with your ageing loved ones for many years to come!

About Right at Home

Right at Home offers in home supportive care and personal care assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Right at Home directly employs all direct care provider staff, who are insured, and carefully pre-screens all carers prior to their entering a client's home. All ongoing care is monitored and supervised by Registered Nurse care managers. Select offices provide skilled nursing home care as well. Right at Home's national office is based in Brisbane Queensland. For more information on Right at Home, visit the company's Web site at www.rightathome.com.au.

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