Post by: Darra Wray, Founder – My Data Diary, LLC (Originally posted July 20, 2020)
When education, employment or opportunity led you to your current location far from your childhood home, the future need to be available for your parents as they faced the challenges of aging wasn’t even a consideration for you – or for them. The years have passed, and you are now facing the challenge of helping from a distance to ensure your parents receive the care that they need as they deal with the challenges of aging.
Gratefully, there are things you can do to facilitate your role as a long-distance caregiver.
- Insurance Coverage – As your parents’ healthcare needs increase, it is important for you to familiarize yourself with the details of their health insurance coverages. Make sure you understand the basics of how Medicare works and the specific coverage plans they have selected. This will help you help them make the best healthcare decisions possible. You can start your research at https://www.medicare.gov/.
TIP: Seek out a Medicare specialist for a Medicare Coverage checkup before their next plan renewal and ask to participate in the consultation virtually using one of the available video conference or teleconference platforms.
- Health Information – Below is a list of key information that you will need to assist with healthcare from a distance:
- Names and contact information for healthcare providers (doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc)
- An understanding of their current medical issues and concerns
- A list of current medications (prescription and over the counter)
TIP: If health challenges are of major concern, you may want to engage the services of a geriatric care manager. A care manager will help guide you to actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for your parents. They can also accompany your parents on appointments when you cannot. Geriatric Care Managers are usually private pay but are well worth the investment by ensuring quality care and bringing you peace of mind. You can search for a certified geriatric care manager near your parents at www.aginglifecare.org.
- Advance Directives and Permissions – When caring for family members from a distance, it is critical to ensure that you have permission to access the information that you might need and that you understand their preferences for healthcare if they can’t speak for themselves. You will want to ensure you have access to the following documents:
- HIPAA permissions – Documents your authorization to access health / medical information from their providers. A separate authorization will likely need to be recorded with each healthcare provider.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney – Designates the individual(s) who are authorized to direct their health care decisions if they are not able to speak for themselves.
- Living Will – Specifies end of life healthcare preferences if they are not able to speak for themselves.
TIP: Use a tool like the Conversation Starter Kit from the Conversation Project to help you talk with your parents about their wishes for end-of-life care. www.theconversationproject.org.
- Financial Information – There may come a time when you need to step in to assist your parents with the management of their household and personal finances. Therefore, it is important that you have a general understanding of their financial situation. While this can be a challenging conversation to navigate with your parents, ensuring that you have a basic understanding of the below information can save you a great deal of time, money, and frustration in the future.
- Bank accounts
- Sources of income
- Household bills
- Long-term financial obligations
TIP: If managing household bills has become a challenge for your parents to manage on their own, you can consider hiring a Daily Money. A Daily Money Manager (DMM) is a financial professional who provides personal financial services to individuals and families, and who manages personal daily money matters such as bills, budgets, and record keeping. You can search for a Daily Money Manager through the American Association of Daily Money Managers at https://secure.aadmm.com/.
- Signature Authority – If there is an expectation that you will direct financial decisions for your parent while they are still alive, you will want to make sure you have the appropriate documents to provide you with the authorization to do so. Your parents will want to consult with an attorney to ensure they have executed the Financial Power of Attorney (POA) document most appropriate for their situation. Once the Power of Attorney document is in place, your parents should check with each of their financial institutions to see if there are additional forms that should be completed to facilitate the use of the POA in the future.
TIP: Special authorization forms must also be filed with Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service to act on your parents’ behalf.
As the end of life grows nearer, it is important that you understand the legacy planning your parents have already completed. Ask your parents to share information with you related to pre-planned funeral arrangements and estate management.
- End of Life Pre-Planning – Make sure you know who arrangements have been made with and what has been paid for in advance.
- Estate Planning – Make sure you know the name of the attorney who helped your parents prepare their estate plans, and know how to access a copy of the documents when you need them.
If your parents have not put End-of-Life or Estate plans in place, you may want to talk with them about doing this now to make it easier on all of you in the future.
TIP: Be sure to consult an attorney in their area to ensure all appropriate documents are prepared to meet their needs.
The key to navigating the challenges of long-distance caregiving is to ensure that you have the information you need and access to key resources.
- Step 1: Organize all the information you need in one place for easy access
TIP: Use a tool like the My Data Diary+ family information management solution to organize and manage all of the personal, household, health, legal and financial information and documents. www.mydatadiary.com
- Step 2: Assemble a team of professionals to help you navigate and manage your parents’ care needs from a distance.
It is important to remember that you are not alone and that help is available. So, take a deep breath and start gathering the information and assembling the resources you need. You’ve got this!
Darra Wray is a Care Consultant and Certified Senior Advisor in Boise, Idaho. She founded My Care Companions and My Data Diary, LLC to help family caregivers streamline and simplify the business of life.