Parents getting older? Live far away? Here are some elder caregiving tips to help both of you.

The Partners Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary workplace based consultation, short-term counseling, information and referral program for employees and their household members. EAP counselors Lisa Goss Staffiere and Janet Loughlin share ways to ease the stress of long distance caregiving.

Helpful Tips for Long Distance Caregiving:

1. Learn about your parents’ informal network — neighbors, old friends, doctors, clergy and lawyers — and make sure they know how to reach you and you know how to reach them.

2. Develop a list of your parents’ important medical information such as physicians’ names, medical conditions, medications (both prescribed and over-the-counter, including dosages) and health insurance information (including long-term care insurance.)

3. Attend an appointment with your parents’ primary care physician.

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4. Learn where your parents keep their important financial and legal documents (such as wills, house deeds and life insurance papers).

Know Your Resources

5. Identify elder resources in the state in which your parents reside before a crisis. The Eldercare Locator is a nationwide service to help locate local support. Call 1-800-677-1116 or visit www.eldercare.gov to locate the closest Area Agency on Aging.

6. Check into home care agencies in their area and visit other housing options such as assisted living and nursing homes.

7. Examine your parents’ home for possible hazards such as loose rugs, cords that could be tripped over or lighting issues. Consider if they need adaptations to the environment such as handrails.

8. Communicating about these issues can be difficult. If you can, raise these issues before your parents become disabled.

Talk it Out

9. Talk to your parents about the kind of medical care they would want if they were to become too ill to express their wishes, and help them set up advanced directives.

10. Through living wills and healthcare proxies, their decisions about end of life care are clearly stated. Make sure you and their doctors have a copy.

Elder caregiving, especially from a distance, can be both rewarding and a challenge. It’s important to care for yourself as well.

To read more information on elder caregiving, visit the Partners EAP website.

Janet Loughlin, LICSW, CEAP, Corporate Employee Assistance Consultant, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified employee assistance professional, with a master’s degree from Boston College. She is the EAP Liaison to Partners HealthCare at Home, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Partners Community Healthcare, Inc. Janet joined Partners EAP in 2000, previously an EAP counselor at the Polaroid Corporation’s Inner City Training Program. Janet brings expertise in eldercare issues and domestic violence prevention, as well as 20 years of professional experience to Partners EAP. 

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Lisa Goss Staffiere, LICSW, CEAP, Corporate Employee Assistance Consultant, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified employee assistance professional, with a master’s degree from Boston University. Lisa joined Partners EAP in 2002, previously the clinical director at Family Service, Inc. in Lawrence. Lisa counsels clients in English, Spanish and French. Lisa brings 31 years of professional experience to Partners EAP.
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