“Managing” Your Parents?

On huffingtonpost.com, today, there is an article by Diana M. Raab that has very good advice but makes me shudder a bit, at the same time.  The article is titled, “Managing Aging Parents Far Away,” which is part of what makes me shudder. 

Frankly, I find the title and the message patronizing and offensive.  It’s almost as bad as the concept of “parenting our parents” that I went on a tantrum against a while back!

Do adult children have challenges supporting aging parents who live a significant distance away?  Absolutely they do.  I certainly did, before my folks died.  They were in Oregon, 750 miles away from me, in California.  Diana Raab makes a very articulate case for some of the issues we encounter.  But the concept of managing or parenting my parents was foreign to me and to them, no matter what their conditions were.

So what do I like about the article?  At the end of it, she talks about what she has learned in reading.  There are some good suggestions:

1) Remain in close daily contact to keep the emotional bond.
2) Keep up to date with health issues. Remain in touch with their physician.
3) Ensure that they have assistance around the house.
4) Suggest activities to minimize isolation.
5) Hire someone to run errands and to drive to appointments.
6) Offer financial assistance as needed.
7) Arrange other family members and friends to visit.
8) Have an emergency network system in place.
9) Ensure they have a cell phone.
10) Set them up with a computer so Skype is a possibility.

In addition to #3, above, the author talks about a conversation she had with her mother, some time back:

She did tell me that if she was unable to look after herself, she would prefer a caretaker in her own home over being placed in a nursing facility. I promised to honor her request.

That is a very common request, as we know at Support For Home.  However, there is a bit of a false premise in the statement.  A skilled nursing facility involves just that — the need for on-going, usually permanent nursing.  But the need for a caregiver usually shows up long before that situation occurs.  The need for a caregiver involves the ability to perform Activities of Daily Living, not just a chronic or acute illness.  Those issues include the ability of her mom to get to her own doctor:

“Have you seen a doctor?” I asked. “Yes, I went to the clinic up the street, I wasn’t feeling well enough to go to my doctor who is half an hour away. He put me on antibiotics and cortisone.”

Having a caregiver providing service to her mother, at this point, would have meant her mother could be driven to her own doctor.  The caregiver would also be able to communicate directly with the daughter, when the mother might be reluctant to “bother” her.

So, the ten advice items are good, but if you encounter the need to provide long-distance support for your parents, enlist an ally.  Find a good caregiver who can serve as your “avatar” at times.  🙂

Best wishes.  Bert


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