In times gone past, people grew up, lived and died in the same geographical location. People would go their whole lives without going to the next city, and would spend their time surrounded by their family.
It sounds almost quaint in a modern society, where we usually move away from our families. We go off to college and then settle somewhere where the job market suits us. More people are living and working in a different country than the one they call home than ever before. We have opened the world up to ourselves and see, experience and joy more things than our forebears would have thought possible.
The one downside of this geographical revolution is the distance. As we no longer live our entire existence with our family nearby, we can face the nightmare of caring for elderly relatives from miles away.
This can feel almost impossible, and comes with a side portion of guilt to make things even worse. Yet most of us can’t uproot our entire lives and go and live close to relatives. One solution may be to have them come to us, but then all you’re doing is swapping who does the uprooting. Many seniors still have active lives with friends nearby; they might want to stay put, and who could blame them?
There are some solutions that fall as a compromise, allowing adequate care from a distance. All you need to do is know how to tap into them.
1. Make sure you are listed as a family member on doctors records.
If your relative becomes unwell, you may be required to speak on their behalf. To avoid a paperwork snafu, get listed on the medical notes as someone who can speak as a named person. This should also mean you get listed as next of kin and can be contacted should something happen while you’re not there.
2. Take advantage of local offerings.
Many states offer home care services which can help keep an elderly person content in their home. This can involve general tidying assistance, to more lifestyle-orientated ideas with the likes of Seniors Helping Seniors. A little time spent online researching can find such peer-support groups, which can also mix in medical care if there is a health issue.
3. Get them connected.
Spending an afternoon teaching an elderly relative how to use the internet and messaging services is well worthwhile. Not only does it give the window to an outdoor world, but you can check in which them on a much more casual basis. You can bring a social element to the mix, such as host family movie nights they can watch with you over the internet.
4. Use an alert system.
Set up reminders for your relative for certain points in the week when they are to check in with you. Three times a week is usually sufficient, so long as both parties agree. That way, rather than them having to contact you if something is wrong (which may not be possible), you are alerted by the lack of contact.
Finally, a quick note: useful as the above are, they don’t replace occasional visits. Make the effort to travel every once in awhile, and both you and your family will experience the rewards it offers.