By: Marie Villeza – Elderimpact.org
According to a report in 2015 from Statistics Canada, Canada has an estimated 16.1 percent of senior citizens over 65. For the first time ever, there are now more people aged over 65 in Canada than under 15. As a result, care for senior citizens will only multiply as their population increases. But how do we provide necessary care for our aging loved ones when we don’t live nearby?
When you’re living in a different province, it can be more than challenging to give your loved ones the care they deserve, especially if they are suffering from Alzheimer’s or limited mobility. Some of the issues they face can be sensitive, but no matter the distance, you can play an essential role in helping to care for them. From finding the right services to using technology, here are four critical areas to focus on when supporting your senior loved ones.
Find Good Local Services
One of the most important aspects of supporting a senior loved one when you can’t physically be there, especially for those with dementia and/or limited mobility, is through an actual caregiver. Services will differ by location, but there is a wealth of information online and by phone. These tools can be indispensable for locating reliable help you can trust.
Communication Is Key
When you’re living far away, staying in touch with your senior loved one can be difficult, but communication is essential for all aspects of care. Actively involve both your senior’s caregiver and your senior in all decisions being made. Make sure that your senior loved one’s values are respected, but also that the preferences and wishes of your loved one are being met. Seniors are adults, not children. Put any such instructions in writing, just to be sure everyone understands what needs must be satisfied. If you can’t be there in person, you can use Skype or FaceTime to bridge the miles. Even social media like Facebook can be invaluable in keeping on top of everything. Consider scheduling a weekly video-chat session or phone call.
The hardest decision of all as we age is downsizing. Family homes hold many cherished memories and a comforting familiarity, but this is often impractical for long-term care, as arthritic knees have trouble with stairs, and maintaining large yards can be exhausting. Smaller homes offer many benefits, from adaptability to being more accessible both for the senior and caregiver. These homes can be more easily customized to the needs of seniors. Leaving the house they love can be emotionally stressful but will make a huge difference in their health and lifestyle in the long run.
But what do you do with your loved one’s possessions? They hold some of the most precious memories, yet not everything will be able to go with your senior. This can be a bittersweet process, but it’s one which can also be an opportunity to reminisce together, even if you’re only able to be there via Skype or FaceTime. One approach to letting things go is to systematically color-code belongings, with colors assigned to items which are “definite keepers,” “maybes,” or “to be discarded”—donated or tossed out. If things must be discarded for practical reasons (e.g., the sofa your parents bought together or the oven your mother cooked every birthday cake in), they can still go with your relative in spirit in the form of a photograph, which can help bring back powerful memories.
Discovering Technology and Apps
We’ve mentioned social media, but smart technology can also transform how we care for our seniors out of state. One of the most common devices is the wearable emergency button, which can give you peace of mind. It’s a delicate topic, but if your senior doesn’t have one, it’s highly recommended to talk to him or her about it. If your loved one has dementia or is just forgetful, consider tools like automated medication dispensers and GPS location services to add an extra layer of safety. There are plenty of other devices and apps out there that can actively involve you in your senior’s care, from indoor cameras, to monitoring blood pressure remotely, to smart pillboxes that can keep you notified when medication has been taken.
With all these tips in your arsenal, distance doesn’t have to be an obstacle anymore. By finding the right type of caregiver, helping your senior downsize to accommodate his or her lifestyle, and keeping in touch and monitoring their health with apps, you’ll both have peace of mind and the ability to stay connected no matter how far apart you are.
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