Parental Guidance: Long Distance Care for Aging Parents
By Ana McGinley, 2016.
In this valuable guide to long distance care for aging parents, Ana McGinley gives very sensible advice about this difficult topic by balancing humour, personal anecdotes and very technical information. When we live far away from our aging parents and we need to rely on others to take care of them, one of our biggest challenges is our passive role. We have to trust other people take care of our loved ones like if they were us.
Ana McGinley takes us by the hand and combines her professional knowledge and personal experience to show us the different steps we need to undertake, whom to turn to and what to do when we receive the dreaded phone call.
In her very hands-on approach, she illustrates some common situations older parents can incur when their health declines and shows very useful strategies to cope with these situations.
A very valuable suggestion for all those who will not be able to provide consistent personal help and who don't have siblings taking care of their aging parents, is to appoint a Family Manager, i.e. someone who takes care not only of the practical aspects of the parents lives but who is also point of reference for up-to-date information of the evolving situation.
A structured approach
In "Your Parent Faces A Health Crisis and Needs Help" (1-16), the author illustrates different scenarios and solutions on how to react, which steps to take and whom to appoint. Her practical considerations help to keep a level head.
In "How Can You Help?" (17-30), she walks us through the different aspects we need to become familiar with, helps us to do a reality check about the whole situation and provides us with a great "checklist for long distance caregivers". In difficult situations the family dynamics change and expectations need to be managed (cfr. "Families" 31-48) and communication needs to be clear (cfr. "Communication" 49-58). By illustrating the most "Common Chronic Diseases Of the Elderly" (59-72), Ana McGinley points out that there multiple health factors can collude and require an entire specialist team: "in an ideal world, all people over the age of 65 would have their health care managed by a specialist team" (71), but reality is different.
In "Safety Within the Home" (73-94), and "Risks Outside The Home" (95-106), the author gives very valuable advice on how to keep our parents safe in their everyday lives: "hindsight is a wonderful thing but foresight is better, especially when it comes to saving life, or some pain" (William Blake).
Talking about finances and preparing for future care costs, appointing a power of attorney and appointing guardians and financial managers, and taking care of wills is discussed in the chapter "Legal and Financial Matters" (107-120).
In the last chapter "Overview of Care For An Aging Parent" (121-126), Ana McGinely highlights the most important points one should consider and in "Closing Thoughts" (127-128), she reminds the reader that "Old Age ain't no place for sissies" (Bette Davis) and that it's never too soon to make plans...
I highly recommend this book to any expat or international with parents living in another country. No matter if they are aging or not, it is never too soon to be thinking about these things and it is even better to be prepared early rather than wait for the unthinkable to happen.
This book is also a recommended read for aging couples as they can gain a much better understanding of their options if something happens to their partners.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
For those of you who have experienced taking care of aging parents while living abroad, Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly is currently looking for volunteers to share their thoughts and experiences in a survey in order to gain more insight into the true complexities of caring for aging loved-ones from a distance, and use these to inform support available for people affected. You can find the survey here.
Ute (PhD in Romance Linguistics and Literature) is an expat-since-birth. She is a language coach and trainer, an expert in bilingualism and expat life coach.
She offers courses on topics related to “Expat Life” and “Parenting TCKs (Third Culture Kids)”, workshops for internationals and coaching support in English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands and Italiano, and offers language coaching and training (German, Italian, French).