Cole T. is a 45-year-old married man, living with his stay-at-home wife, Lisa, and three school-age children in Pewee Valley. He’s a line foreman for the same Louisville-based aluminum tube manufacturer he began working for as a line technician fresh out of vocational school.
He knows everything about his business, but there are few opportunities for Cole outside his industry and his company has no fabrication facilities west of the Mississippi. Moreover, as American manufacturing jobs continue to dry up, he’s worried about making it to retirement with his income stream intact. But he loves his job, so he keeps his nose clean and takes everything a day at a time.
Cole grew up an only child in New Mexico. His parents divorced when he was 6; his father passed away a few years ago.
His mother is 72 and living alone in Albuquerque. Cole talks to her on the phone every other day or so, but lately, he’s noticed she’s harder of hearing and gets easily confused. He’s worried she might have early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s.
It makes Cole uncomfortable to know that his mother is all by herself. He wonders what would happen if she fell, or if she became confused while driving and had a serious accident.
Cole can’t move his family to New Mexico without sacrificing his job and, besides, Lisa doesn’t want to uproot the kids if they can avoid it. He’d offer to move his mother into his Kentucky home tomorrow, but it’s a modest 3-bedroom, 1-bath model and already cramped.
Like many long-distance caregivers, Cole feels hemmed in by circumstance. And it’s causing him a lot of anxiety. He doesn’t sleep well with all the worry.
Does Cole’s story sound familiar?
There’s a good chance it does. In 2004, when MetLife examined the long-distance caregiving challenges Americans face, the insurer found that about 15 percent of the nation’s elder caregivers live an hour or more’s drive away from their senior loved ones.
So, what happens if your parents need help with the tasks of day-to-day living, but you live far from them? How can you ensure your parents are getting the care they need? How can you find services and elder care providers in their area?
Luckily, there are many resources available for people in your situation. Let's look at a few of them.
Know where to go to find information and support
Not all caregiving journeys begin after an older parent experiences a medical emergency or sudden downturn, but a great many do.
In an ideal world, your parents would have outlined in advance the steps to be taken if they experience debilitating illness or injury. In practice, most people rarely do.
Following initial decisions made at the hospital, there are logical steps to follow in planning for your parent’s residential personal care.
The hospital’s social worker or case manager will likely be able to provide you with handouts and leads, but you’ll be one of many people on his or her docket, so you’ll have to figure out many of the steps on your own.
The internet can be your best friend when you’re looking for retirement care answers, but remember to stick to reputable sources. Here are a few we know to be reliable and very helpful.
AoA Eldercare Locator
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA) maintains an area-specific online directory of caregiving resources: click here to view its Eldercare Locator.
This directory is easy to access and represents one of the most powerful tools for caregivers. You can input the type of care your parent needs and cross-reference it by ZIP code, or by city and state.
National Caregivers Library
This site features free assessments, checklists, questionnaires and worksheets that will help you determine the kinds of care your aging loved one needs, then figure out which steps you should take.
The American Society on Aging (ASA)
The ASA is an advocacy group committed to enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life for older adults. It publishes an excellent blog that will keep you up-to-date on elder care issues and help to point you toward community resources.
The organization also offers a series of informative web seminars to members; many are available for free even to non-members.
National Institute on Aging
The National Institute on Aging’s publications directory is another wonderful source of information for caregivers. Click here and look at the tab on the left, where you can browse by topic.
Many employers offer specific benefits and support programs for long-distance caregivers.
Providing long-distance care for a loved one can be expensive — both in monetary and emotional terms. Elder care expenses, travel costs and time spent away from your home, family and work can become tough to manage.
A lot of employers offer resources or caregiving assistance for their salaried employees. Be sure to ask your company about its policies.
There are state and federal laws, including the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), that govern medical and family caregiving leave, flexible scheduling and (in some states) financial assistance; be sure to brush up on them and know your rights before taking time off to care for your aging parent.
Learn more about Episcopal Church Home’s person-centered approach to senior care.
If your older loved one needs residential retirement care in Louisville, we’d love to show you the difference holistic care can make in seniors’ overall well-being.
Click here to learn more about our senior services — from assisted living to residential memory care — then come take a tour of our Kentucky retirement community.