December 28, 2011
Many adult children have encountered the challenge of long-distance caregiving as senior loved ones cope with a chronic illness. One solution is respite help by way of a strong local support network or a dependable professional caregiving company like the Home Instead Senior Care® network.
Q. My 86-year-old widowed dad has become ill. I’m the closest relative and yet I live four hours away. I’m beside myself with worry. What can I do?
Did you know that nearly 40 percent of chronically ill older adults in the U.S. live alone? What’s more, a majority of those who are married have spouses with at least one chronic illness that can affect their ability to provide support. That’s according to a University of Michigan study published in the journal Chronic Illness.
Researchers found that 93 percent of the chronically ill older adults had adult children, but for half of them, the children lived more than 10 miles away. Roughly 19 million older chronically ill Americans have adult children like you living at a distance.
“Fortunately, most of these people had adult children who could be another source of support for their chronic illness care,” said John D. Piette, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and a senior career scientist with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. “But these relationships are increasingly strained as adult children move farther away from their parents. Distances pose a barrier to the monitoring and frequent support for behavior change that many chronically ill patients need.”
These Michigan researchers are working to develop telephone monitoring systems that involve family members in a relative’s care through email alerts or automated phone calls. The “CarePartners” program has been developed for patients with heart failure, diabetes, depression and cancer chemotherapy. The program is currently being studied.
“Family members need more than just information to be successful,” said co-author Ann-Marie Rosland, M.D., clinical lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and research investigator for the Center for Clinical Management Research in the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. “We need to teach family members communication skills and provide the tools that they can use to encourage patients to stick to their health regimen.”
Respite assistance also can be a benefit to a long-distance family caregiver such as you. Having a trusted companion could help put you at ease and give your father the assistance and support he needs at home. Contact your local Home Instead Senior Care® office for more information.
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