Today, the world is much smaller than it was just a few generations ago – at least it may seem that way given how easy it is to move across national borders. The ease with which we can all move away, however, can make it difficult to care for an aging parent when the time comes that care is needed. Consequently, you may find yourself providing care from afar. If so, a Los Angeles elder law attorney at Collins Law Firm offers some tips for those who are providing care long-distance.
The Cost of Unpaid Caregivers
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. Most of those caregivers (82%) provide care for a single adult, usually a close family member. The monetary value of the services provided by unpaid caregivers is truly staggering – and it is increasing noticeably as the older population continues to increase at a historic rate. Over five years ago, in 2013, the economic value of all unpaid care in the United States was an estimated $470 billion. Compare that the value of that same care in 2007 when it was estimated to be at $375 billion — an increase of almost $100 billion in just six years.
If you have moved across the country (or the world) and you now have a family of your own and/or a successful career in your current location, it can cause a difficult internal conflict when an aging parent suddenly needs a caregiver. Picking up and moving back “home” may not be a realistic option. Trying to provide care from afar can be stressful though. If you are a long-distance caregiver, there are some things you can do to make your “job” a bit less stressful, including:
- Learn about your parent’s medical history and overall health as well as current medical conditions and medications. Check with your parent’s doctors and research 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 impact them. This will help you know what to expect and what symptoms to watch out for that could indicate a serious problem.
- Properly investigate your parent’s care providers. While it may be difficult to do from afar, make an effort 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.
- 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.
- Obtain original copies of important legal documents. In order to properly care for your parent, you will likely 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.
- 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 a Los Angeles Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about providing care to an elderly loved one from afar, or you have other elder law questions, be sure to consult with an elder law attorney near you. Contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.