Long-distance care and financial coordination for your parents can get tricky.
Did you know that three in 10 adult children are concerned about their aging parents’ ability to manage household finances? For those who live far away from their parents, this statistic combined with parents’ declining health can spell last-minute emergency trips, weekends spent worrying about Mom not answering her phone, or unpleasant surprises during family visits.
Keeping an eye on your parents’ well-being from a distance is difficult. Thankfully, enough people have had to do it – so there are some best practices and solutions that can help you.
Financial check-ups from far away
Modern technology has connected us all in new ways, and some of those may help you in your mission to co-manage your parents’ financial affairs.
If your parents are working with a financial advisor, ask for an introduction. Many professionals use video conferencing that eliminates the need for travel. Some offer digital client portals through financial planning software tools. A portal is a private, protected website that allows you to communicate with the financial advisor, review account statements, monitor financial activity, and much more. Access to a client portal is controlled through a secure user name and password.
It’s possible that your parents aren’t interested in using a client portal. The idea alone may be a source of anxiety, especially if they are not very comfortable with technology and online accounts. But, this could become a great resource for you, especially if it aggregates of all your parents’ banking and investment accounts in one place.
Technology can help in other ways, too. If you are helping your parents pay bills, think about setting up autopay arrangements. Managing two households is a lot of work. Putting bills on autopilot allows you to spend your time on other priorities or get some much-needed rest. Same goes for auto-renewing newspaper subscriptions and auto-refilling prescriptions.
Long-distance help with housekeeping
As your parents get older, things like house cleaning can become more and more daunting. Mopping the floors, scrubbing the bath tub, or doing laundry can go undone for weeks or even months at a time. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to move to an assisted living facility, but a little help around the house can make a big difference for their quality of life.
If you’re facing this situation and can’t be there to help in person, begin by vetting the services available in the area. With a simple Internet search, you will probably find several agencies that can take care of housework, meal prep, grocery shopping, etc. And yes, there are some agencies that specialize in helping seniors!
Be patient. It may take several tries to find the provider that you trust and that your parents like. Think about optimal housecleaning frequency. Some people prefer once-a-month deep cleaning, others like shorter weekly visits.
Bringing new people into the house is always stressful. It’s important to do your vetting upfront and to set expectations. Some housekeeping agencies offer just housecleaning. Others have a broad services menu. There’s no one choice that’s right for everyone, so understand your parents’ needs and comfort level with outside help, then move forward.
In addition to potentially hiring a housekeeper, look into local volunteers. Your parents’ area may offer volunteer services that can provide company, transportation, meal delivery, etc. A local hospital may have a volunteer group, and local service organizations can be a useful source of information. And websites like www.MealTrain.com are a useful tool for coordinating help with meals across your parents’ community. “Meals on Wheels” is another budget-friendly option.
Get the entire family onboard
Does your family have one “designated sibling” who’s in charge of keeping an eye on the parents? If your answer is “yes”, it’s important to share the responsibility in some way.
Talk amongst the siblings and other family members about who will be expected to do what. If it makes sense for one person to be the key point of contact, make sure that he or she isn’t stretched thin. It’s common for primary caregivers to “just” get a task done or pay for something that’s needed — without thinking that multiple tasks can add up to a part-time job, and that out-of-pocket expenses can exhaust a bank account over time. If you happen to be the primary caregiver, get comfortable with asking for help.
Continued contact with loved ones is critically important, especially if your parent is recovering from an accident, an illness, or has suffered a loss. Set up a visiting schedule. Keep in mind that frequent short visits are better that longer visits with weeks in between. Regular check-ins from family and friends can also help you monitor how well your parents are doing, how they are interacting with housekeepers, nurses, volunteers. They can also spot other things and help your parent might need.
Helping your aging parents from a distance
In summary, managing your parents’ finances, housekeeping, and care from a distance is difficult but possible. Use technology to automate as much as you can. Research housekeeping and other assistance options in their area. Then you can delegate a lot of the day-to-day maintenance to trusted professionals. Use this as an opportunity to create a family plan and strategy for handling both routine and emergency issues.
Finally, consider hiring a Geriatric Care Manager. This option isn’t cheap, especially on an ongoing basis. However, if your parents have complex medical issues that require coordination across multiple doctors’ offices and medical facilities, or if their care needs are extensive, a Care Manager may be a good investment.
Without a Care Manager, someone else in the family will have to manage expensive last-minute trips, cancelled work, and overturned plans in the event of an emergency. A great Geriatric Care Manager is familiar with local resources, the healthcare system, and care facilities. He or she can become your guide, an advocate for your parents when you are not there, and your key to maximizing the benefits you are paying for.
When hiring a Geriatric Care Manager, be sure to do your due diligence. Research the professional’s experience and credentials. Interview a number of candidates to find one with the right experience and personality for your situation.
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