Sociologists note that we're living in a unique time in American history. It's believed that, for the first time ever, the modern generation of adults is expected to care both for their children and their own parents at the same time.
These unique caregiver duties are due to two things. First, the still-troubled economy has led to "extended adolescence," meaning many twentysomethings are living at home or are financially dependent on mom and dad. Second, mom and dad are also finding themselves caring for their own parents, who are living longer than generations past.
This "Sandwich Generation" faces many concerns, but one of them iscaregiving from far away. Adult children who do not live close to their parents often have anxiety about whether their parents are receiving proper care.
With that in mind, here are some simple tips that might be helpful to people who are trying to look after their parents remotely. Family situations are among the most delicate in our culture, so they're all different from one another. As such, we've tried to keep these tips general and as one-size-fits-all as possible:
- The most important thing you can do may be to establish open lines of communication. Older people sometimes clam up about ailments or concerns because they are worried about appearing vulnerable or needy, and that can be an invitation to very big problems. Checking in with your parents as often as you can (by phone, email, postal mail or in person -- mixing it up is good) will go a long way toward generating openness and effective communication. We know this is a time commitment, but not every conversation needs to be a long one.
- Remember when you left a list of important phone numbers for the babysitter when your children were young? That isn't a bad idea for you to do for your parents, either. It's important they know who to contact in the event that they need help.
- To the extent that you can, keep physical copies of all relevant paperwork and documents. Of course, you want to trust that your parents will be diligent and organized, but as we get older, it's harder and harder to be that way.
- Lastly, don't let yourself feel overwhelmed or alone. Being a member of the Sandwich Generation is a new and trying experience. It's natural to feel a sense of worry when you're caring for the people who raised you. If it's any help, please remember that you are far from alone.
Leveraging the many resources available for caregivers is also an enormous help. There are seemingly endless groups, organizations, events, and lists like this Caregiving & Patient Care Resource Project.
Eliminate the burden of maintaining your aging parents' medical records by relying on a solution like CareSync, which will give you access to all of the information you need to help take care of your loved ones, and the tools to easily share it with family, care teams, and doctors.