When an elderly family member (or loved one) reaches a point at which care is necessary, most of us want to be the one to provide that care. If you happen to live far away, however, caring for your loved one can be challenging. With planning and vigilance, it is possible to be a long-distance caregiver though. To make your job easier, an Indianapolis elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft explains how to be a long-distance caregiver.
Caregiving from a Distance
Once upon a time, it was unusual for an adult child to move more than a town away from his/her parents. Today, however, living close to your parents is the exception, not the norm. For an adult child who now lives thousands of miles away and has a family of their own and/or a successful career in their current location, it can be difficult to pick up and move back home when an aging parent needs a caregiver. The only realistic option may be to provide care from afar. If you find yourself trying to provide care from far away, the following tips may be helpful:
- Make sure you understand your parent’s medical conditions and medications. If necessary, make a trip back home to consult with your parent’s doctors. In addition, research health conditions and medications online. Make sure though that you have permission for online access to medical records and other information protected by HIPPEA. To help care for your parent you need to have a clear understanding of how any medical conditions they have may impact them. This will help you know what to expect and what symptoms to watch out for that could indicate a serious problem.
- Investigate care providers. Take the time to learn what you can about the health care professionals caring for your parent. If someone provides in-home care you want to develop as close a relationship as possible with this person because he/she has direct access to your parent and could exert considerable influence over him/her. Do your own background check on anyone who has ongoing access to your parent.
- Create a filing system for important documents. This might include his/her birth certificate, social security card, insurance documentation, bank account statements, estate planning documents and anything else that seems important.
- Create and retain original copies of important legal documents. To oversee your parent’s care from a distance, you will need the proper legal authority to do so. That authority may be given to you in the form of a general power of attorney, as the Trustee of a trust, in medical release forms, as an agent in a medical power of attorney, or as a court-appointed guardian. You may also want to become a joint owner of property owned by your parent to make it easier to manage the property. In any case, you need to have the proper documentation close at hand in case someone questions your authority. If these documents are not already in place, make an appointment with an elder law attorney to discuss which ones you need to execute.
- Plan now for possible emergencies. Anytime you are caring for an elderly loved one, whether from within the same house or from thousands of miles away, you need to be prepared for an emergency. Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready if you live within driving distance. If you live too far to drive, decide ahead of time the best way to get there quickly (plane, bus, train). If you must travel abroad, make sure your passport is up to date. Finally, have a contingency plan for children, pets, and your job in the event you must pick up and go on a moment’s notice.
Contact an Indianapolis Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about caring for an elderly loved one from far away, or you have other elder law questions, contact an experienced Indianapolis elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.