April 7, 2016, by Anum Yoon – When you’re on active duty, you may be stationed far from your parents. You may also be required to move from country to country. If your parents are aging, they may need care that you cannot personally provide because of the geographical distance.
People may have concerns about the care of their aging parents even when they live nearby. Medical conditions and issues tend to increase as people get older. They may need a caretaker to look in on them to make sure they are eating well, to help with basic home maintenance or to make sure they are taking required medication.
Older people may also be frail and prone to fall. It is a good idea to regularly check their homes for safety and make appropriate modifications to areas like stairs, which can often be tough to navigate.
How do you make sure your aging parents are cared for when you may be half-way around the world? It’s important to plan. Here are four steps to take to make sure your parents will be well cared for while you’re in the service:
1. Set up a nearby support system. Even if you’re an only child, think about what support system you could put together. If you need someone to stop by and check on your parents, could it be done by extended family members (uncles, aunts, cousins, grandchildren)? Are they close to neighbors? Friends? If you have brothers or sisters, could they check in occasionally even if they don’t live close by?
2. See what community resources are available. Many communities offer assistance to senior citizens. These services could be volunteers dedicated to checking on them, delivery of meals or other programs geared toward the aging.
As a service member, you can get information on what resources are available for families and caregivers through The National Resource Directory. It’s a service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense — the listings are often grouped state by state.
3. Talk, Skype and e-mail often. Just because you’re not nearby doesn’t mean you can’t check in with your parents. Talk to them as often as you can. If you can Skype, it would be advisable, just because you can physically see whether or not they look healthy. If Skype isn’t available, use the phone. You can often tell how they’re doing by their tone of voice and by the conversation. You can also use e-mail just to check up.
4. Make a plan. Planning for care of aging family members is always important. The steps of planning are the same whether you are far away or 10 miles down the road.
You need to talk openly with your parents’ support network about what they feel they can realistically do. If support is available among extended family or friends, do they need occasional assistance from trained caregivers at home, or are trained caregivers needed all together? It helps to have a list of what is needed and who can provide it.
Ask the caregivers to let you know if your parents need to think about assisted living, additional medical care or physical therapy. It is important to be in the loop about the level of care the nearby caregivers think they need.
Caring for aging parents while you’re in the service can be stressful. However, by taking steps to plan a support system of family and friends, using community resources as much as possible, keeping in touch with your parents and mapping out a realistic plan, you’ll be ahead of the curve in assessing and taking care of their needs.