Q. My father, age 87, has lived alone for many years. He’s recently had some health issues and though he remains somewhat independent, he now has a live-in aide who helps him with his dinner, errands, transportation, and assists him in the mornings.
I live a few hours away by plane and am able to visit him often. I’ve tried to convince him to move near me, but he has many friends in his apartment building, and is comfortable and well situated with his healthcare.
I love visiting him, but when I go home I feel anxious, that I should be doing more for him. Any suggestions?
Debbie G., Paramus, New Jersey
A. I, too, was a long-distance caregiver so I appreciate your feelings of anxiety or helplessness when you can’t be with your father as often as you would like. But you have described him as content, well cared for and surrounded by friends. A trifecta we should all aspire to in our senior years!
May I suggest that you splurge for a pair of tablets that you can use to communicate with each other regularly? Skyping with your father and his aide would allow you to see firsthand how he is doing and make you feel more present in his life.
A client of mine, faced with the same challenge of long-distance caregiving, told me that tablets turned out to be a “fabulous solution” for her family.
“My father loves Skyping and won’t even talk by phone unless he can use the FaceTime feature. It’s also been great for his caregiver who now sees his loving interactions with us,” she said. “It helps her understand my father more and makes for a better caregiving experience for everyone involved.”
There are several companies near him that can help set up the tablet for him, install WiFi in his house, and teach him and his aide how to use it. Of course, he’ll have many more reasons to enjoy it, from reading books to viewing family photos and surfing the Web, if he is so inclined.
I do think that tablets and Skyping are the next best thing to being there.
Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of SeniorityMatters.com, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.