The responsibility of arranging outside care for an elderly parent or disabled loved one may fall to you someday. It’s not an easy task, but careful planning and consultations with specialists can ease the situation.

The first step is to answer three basic questions:

  1. What level of care does your relative need — skilled, intermediate or basic?
  2. Does the person live alone, with family members, or in a nursing facility?
  3. What kind of care can the relative afford?

To come up with the answers, consult with the following people:

Family members can ease the burden of making choices and help determine the patient’s emotional, as well as physical, needs. Can responsibilities be shared so that one person doesn’t “burn out” shouldering most of the burden?

Physicians and social workers know how much care is needed. They can also help evaluate the care options.

Elder care accountants can assist in estate planning and provide an analysis of the person’s health insurance coverage and financial situation. It’s important to understand the patient’s rights and responsibilities concerning the filing of insurance claims.

There are many day-to-day tasks involved in the care of an elderly parent, including scheduling and payment of health care and domestic care workers, arranging doctors visits, buying and giving medications, overseeing the patient’s general maintenance and arranging meal services if necessary.

In-Home Care

If you need in-home care, you must determine whether to hire a Registered Nurse, a Certified Nursing Assistant, a nursing aide, or a companion. This is often a judgment call based on the physical and emotional needs of the patient.

When choosing a health aide, agency or domestic worker service, check reputations and current references. Don’t forget to ask agencies how they deal with taxes. Some firms consider their workers to be self-employed independent contractors who handle their own tax responsibilities. Others treat them like ordinary employees and take out withholding taxes.

Suitcase Caregiving

It used to be that kids grew up and continued to live in the same town as their parents and grandparents. Today, it’s not uncommon to find different generations living on opposite sides of the country.

Suitcase caregiving can be a daunting challenge. One option is to move your parent closer, but if that’s impossible, here are a few suggestions on how to cope from a distance: 

  • Keep a resource guide handy for the community where your parent lives.
  • Establish a contact person where your parent lives. Communicate regularly with the person to get a true picture. If your parent lives in a facility, a social worker is a good source. Ask what material items your parent needs and how they seem mentally, as well as physically.
  • If your parent still lives independently, the need for assistance will increase as time goes on. Put together a plan to provide housekeeping, meals, and an emergency alert system that connects to a health facility or police department. Consider working with a local professional who can develop a care plan. The Internet makes it easy to shop for groceries and other necessities that can be delivered.
  • Keep your cell phone with you in case someone needs to call.