According to the MetLife Mature Market Institute’s Since You Care guide, there are some 34 million Americans providing care to older family members. An estimated 15 percent of these caregivers or 5.1 million live more than an hour’s drive from the person for whom they are providing care.
These long-distance caregivers are often caring for an older relative, are employed and have dependent children of their own, aka “the sandwich generation.” That’s no easy task.
Long-distance caregivers must often juggle the demands of two households. They have to rely on reports from others about daily events. They have to arrange/rearrange doctors’ appointments, work schedules and business trips, which is stressful and time consuming.
However, here are some steps to take to make the task more manageable:
n Assess the need. Adult children should determine with their parents what help is needed. Consider hiring a professional geriatric care manager who can professionally assess the needs and possibly provide ongoing case management.
The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers’ Web site (www.findacaremanager.org) provides links to association members who are often familiar with local services available to aging parents. A professional geriatric care manager’s charges range from $100 — $500 for an assessment and $60 to $90/hour for on-going care.
n Make sure a geriatric care manager is licensed/certified by the states in which they work and conduct a full background check before hiring them. Some government entities have resources available to qualifying individuals to help cover costs. The Eldercare Locator (800) 677-1116 can tell you which local agencies provide services in your parents’ community.
n Be prepared. Before a crisis occurs, caregivers and older family members should complete and distribute a “caregiver emergency information” summary, containing all necessary medical, financial, and legal information, including doctors, medications, insurance information, assets and Social Security numbers, wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney and health care proxies.
MetLife’s downloadable booklet, “Family Caregiving” is at www.metlife.com/mmi/publications/since-you-care-guides. AARP also has useful long-distance care-giving resources at: www.aarp.org.
Adult children should have their parents complete and file HIPPA-compliant privacy release forms with their parent’s doctor’s office. This permits the parent’s doctor to discuss his/her health issues with the designated caregiver. Caregivers also should consider using a medical alert emergency response system.
n Develop a support network. Adult children should establish an informal support network composed of family, neighbors, friends, clergy and others who might help with care or other issues. When visiting their parents, adult children should introduce themselves to neighbors and friends and keep their contact information handy in case of an emergency.
n Visit as often as you can. Long-distance caregivers should visit their older family members every few months to check for signs of trouble (changes in personal hygiene, chores not done, etc.) and arrange support services, if needed.
According to MetLife, caregivers spend an average of $193 per month on supplies/services for the care recipient and another $199 per month for travel and telephone charges.
n Consult your financial planner early to ensure that you have examined all your options for the proper care of your loved ones now and in the future.
Karin Grablin, a financial planner with Dictor|Martin in Sarasota, can be reached at (941) 906-7222.