Thursday, December 29, 2011

Caring Across the Miles this Holiday Season

If you are a caregiver for an aging parent, the holiday season may offer a chance to spend additional time with your family. But for some who live a far away from aging parents, this time of year might be a troublesome reminder of the distance between you and the family member who may need some level of care or assistance.

While this might seem challenging, it’s a very common circumstance. According to AARP, * “One-quarter of people caring for elderly relatives do so at a distance.” I’m sure this number continues to grow with more and more families living in different parts of the country!

Most, if not all, caregivers have experienced the ever-expanding pressures and expectations that come with caring for an elder parent. One suggestion is to build a long-distance team to help lighten your caregiving load.

The Caring for your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide suggests, “Even an only child – or an only responsible child – can’t and shouldn’t try to take care of a parent by herself. She should build a caregiving team with close family members, good friends of her parents, caring neighbors, doctors, clergy, and paid caregivers.”

Another option can be enlisting the help of a Geriatric Care Manager - a counselor, social worker, nurse, gerontologist or other specialist - who can coordinate a wide range of elder care. You can learn more about Geriatric Care Managers through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at www.caremanager.org.

A friend and colleague of mine created a wonderful book entitled, **50 Ways to Love Your Mother, which offers lots of simple and fun gift ideas for aging parents. Her tips include the general cost and also if the gift is easy to send if local or long distance. Sometimes just the simple things, like sending a special card or practical gift, can offer a lot to an elder family member who may be living miles away.


*Caring for your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide, AARP, 2006
** 50 Ways to Love Your Mother, Jane Monachelli, M.A., L.P.C., 2006
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Christie Munson, CSA, lives and works in Phoenix, AZ and is the Communications Manager for a retirement community and a Professional Organizer, specializing in senior services. She can be contacted via email at simplify-life@cox.net.