When daily life is hectic, as it is for millions of working-age Canadians, it can be difficult to keep in touch with our loved ones. It’s even more challenging if they don’t live in the same city that we do.
Certainly, technology has made it easier to stay connected than in decades past. Families communicate long-distance by phone, email, text messaging, social media and video chat. And it’s not just the younger generations – Canada’s older adults are spending more and more time online.
Regular contact with aging parents, whether online, by phone or in person, is rewarding in itself. It can also help us ensure that Mom and Dad are doing well, and that they have all the care and support they need for optimal well-being.
When should families consider home care?
Over time, you might notice signs that Mom or Dad is slowing down. Maybe Mom’s arthritis is making housekeeping difficult. Perhaps Dad is becoming increasingly forgetful, or he’s not eating as well as he should. It’s important to take these troubling signs seriously.
Family members can pitch in whenever possible, but eventually, seniors may need more care and support than relatives can provide. It can be incredibly difficult for adult children to meet the needs of aging parents in addition to raising kids and working full-time. It’s common for sons and daughters in the “sandwich generation” to feel anxious, helpless or guilty, knowing that they can’t offer the ongoing support a parent needs. And living far away can make the situation even more stressful.
“If an aging parent is having trouble managing at home, it’s important to take action, before more problems arise”, says Jodi Marrin, Director of Marketing at Bayshore HealthCare. “Start by determining what Mom or Dad needs, perhaps with the help of other family members and your loved one’s physician. Then you can explore the options for senior care in your loved one’s community.”
Most seniors prefer to “age in place” their own home and neighbourhood, rather than move to an assisted-living facility or live with relatives. Home care services, such as personal care, housekeeping and companionship, can help older adults keep living independently for as long as possible. Qualified home care professionals provide much-needed support, and they also give concerned family members greater peace of mind.
Helping from a distance
Even if you can’t visit Mom or Dad as often as you would like, there is much you can do to support an aging parent remotely. If other family members can help, divide up these tasks and work as a team.
- Get in touch with your loved one frequently. This will help you monitor their well-being, and they will appreciate knowing that you care. You could schedule weekly phone or Skype chats, for example.
- Offer to help Mom or Dad get their legal documents and finances in order – for example, managing their bill payments, and checking if they are eligible for home care funding through government programs or an insurance policy.
- Help your loved one access community resources they need, such as a social worker, a seniors’ day program or a meal delivery service, by doing online research or making a few phone calls.
- Arrange for home care services such as housekeeping, companionship, or transportation to medical appointments, as needed. If you’re not sure what your parent needs, a home care agency can conduct an assessment and prepare an individualized care plan.
- Make a list of contact information for key people such as your loved one’s physician, specialists, insurance company, friends, neighbours, etc., and give a copy to family members.
- Develop an emergency plan. Who can go to your loved one in the event of a crisis, and how will they get there?
- Investigate technology that helps seniors stay safe at home, such as a security system, motion sensors or emergency devices.