Valuable Advice to Perfect a Long-Distance Parent Relationship
Time and distance are rarely a challenge in today’s world, and neither should maintaining a long-distance relationship with your parents. Advancements in technology provide global connections in both business and personal affairs. Much can be accomplished regardless of location: work projects are finished at the beach; degrees are earned from home, and purchases are made while watching TV. However, maintaining personal relationships require more than technology and this is especially true in keeping a quality connection with an aging parent.
Life has a unique way of gradually teaching a family to stay bonded while going from living together involved in each other’s daily lives to moving forward and building separate lives. Managing time and distance is accomplished through phone calls and scheduled visits. Parents adjust their lives from being full-time caregivers to becoming empty nesters. Children begin to take on new responsibilities as they venture on their own.
Then, often without notice, the family roles begin to adjust as a parent ages. This part of your family’s journey will experience some difficult and complicated moments. The challenges are increased when your parent lives far away. The time and distance apart create obstacles not found when families live close together.
The following are tips for building a healthy long-distance relationship with your aging parent.
Communication is Key
Most likely, your daily schedule is busy and finding time to check in and chat is part of a long list of things to do. Nonetheless, it is important to consider your parent’s day is much slower and filled with more quiet time. A phone call from you is a welcome addition to your parent’s day.
A daily check-in also provides important information. Through regular conversations, you will be able to detect changes in your parent’s daily routine, health issues, or household maintenance needs.
Sending letters and cards is a great way to stay in touch and brighten your parent’s day. Including pictures provides a visual connection that is sure to be placed in a frame or on the refrigerator for a daily reminder of the love only family shares.
Depending upon your family situation and your role as a caregiver, it is helpful to gather all involved to discuss important matters pertaining to your parent. This is an opportunity to prepare for a time when your parent will depend upon you more.
The outcome of this conversation should include the location of important documents that pertain to finances and health. It should also include your parent’s preferences if or when more care is needed, such as receiving in-home care or moving to a care facility.
Making a plan for your visits will also help to make the best of your time together. Prior to arriving, discuss what is needed at home and if any appointments will be scheduled. Once you arrive your schedule will include tasks you can help with as well as time set aside for a quality visit.
Along with your parent’s situation, it is helpful to make an emergency plan for yourself. Being prepared for an unexpected visit will help avoid stress. Make a list of what needs to be taken care of at work and home and who you will call to look after your house and any other matter. Check with your employer about available leave as well as taking unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Setting aside money for this situation will also be of great help when the time comes.
Use the internet to research and collect various resources to help your parent. This list can include medical services, the mechanic, grocery delivery services, yardwork help, senior taxi service, etc. It is also helpful to research local in-home care providers in order to respond faster if or when this type of assistance is needed.
Create a directory for your reference that includes contact information of friends and neighbors as well as medical providers and pharmacy. Make sure to meet your parent’s neighbors and friends during a visit and set up an emergency call plan. It is also helpful to have your parent’s written permission for you to discuss medical and financial matters.
Make Use of Technology
Technology cannot replace real time spent talking on the phone or visiting in person; however, it can be used effectively to bridge the distance gap between you and your parent. Having a parent that is technologically savvy is a great advantage. Most likely, your aging parent will need some instruction to incorporate the resources that will aid in your long-distance caregiving and relationship.
Purchasing gadgets similar to the ones you use helps tremendously when trying to troubleshoot long-distance. If that is not possible, familiarize yourself with the technology your parent uses in order to provide the best instructions. These learning sessions will often provide plenty of laughs.
Teaching your parent to talk through the video option on his or her phone will provide a more accurate health update than simply talking on the phone. A face to face conversation also helps you both feel closer. This feature may also be used if your parent participates in a virtual doctor appointment.
Another item that can bring you peace of mind is to set up a virtual assistant, such as Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod. These can provide safeguards such as turning on and off lights, medicine reminders, setting up a contact list, among other features.
An hour or more apart from your aging parent adds to the list of concerns that are associated with this situation. Being an effective caregiver and helping from a distance is possible. During this time, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Most important is to take advantage of making quality moments spent together.