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How do you support elderly parents from a distance?

(21 Posts)
SophieBarringtonWard Tue 23-Dec-14 22:16:01

FIL care needs have ramped up recently & MIL is struggling to cope. MIL IS coping well in that she still gets out to her exercise classes etc but it is placing an increasing strain on her.

We live 3.5 hrs away, DH works about 2 weekends in every 4, we have 2 small children. We feel like we should be there once a fortnight but struggle to manage once a month.

Do people have great ideas for things you can do to help out from a distance?

MillyMollyMama Wed 24-Dec-14 00:05:37

If it is regular, practical help they need, it is impossible for you to give it living so far away. I would chat regularly though to see how they are getting on. I assume they did not want to move to be near you, so they must have decided they could and would cope when they got older. I would make sure you are their advocate if need be. For more care visits for example. Perhaps some help in the house could be arranged for them so your MIL remains able to see friends away from the house.

My Mum is 90 and my sisters barely manage to visit her once a year. I have to take her to see them. If you visit once a month, you are doing well. I would suggest you talk about what their needs are likely to be and make sure they don't try and do everything themselves. I also think your children won't want such long journeys every other week and their needs have to be considered too. Don't beat yourself up about your inlaws because they are obviously happy where they live.

Theas18 Wed 24-Dec-14 12:48:22

Yes from 90 mins away

Theas18 Wed 24-Dec-14 14:27:20

Sorry you asked for tips ....
Have a milk man. You can manage it on line for them, worth adding for your parents now so it's in place
Supermarket deliveries are good.

For me, having all the numbers and knowing who ask for re respite and care helps lots.

Age concern have a service for matching people with cleaners etc. that was an amazing revelation.
Getting a cleaner that my mum would permit has been bril

Otherwise I dunno. My mum is too blooming stubborn really and struggles on even when she can't really manage.

I used to get my PIL's shopping delivered by Tesco every week. Excellent service, the delivery people couldn't have been more helpful.

SophieBarringtonWard Thu 25-Dec-14 08:50:54

Online shopping/milkman is a great idea, will talk to MIL about it. Need to persuade her to get a cleaner, she is worried about affording it (they can afford it - plus she is now getting attendance allowance for caring for FIL, so can spend that money conscience free).

MillyMollyMama thanks for the reminder - they did choose to move to where they live away from family, and I suppose re-affirmined that choice in the summer when they moved another hour further away from us - moving closer to us was discussed at that point but ruled out. So yes, they have to accept the implications of that.

3mum Thu 25-Dec-14 17:27:01

If they need more care as time goes on there are care agencies who will go in as often as you need. I thought they were good value and I think we paid about £12 per hour (so two half hours per day). I had some wonderful women who went in every day twice a day to check on her, make sure she had eaten and taken her meds and do a bit of cleaning. I spoke to several agencies, but in the end went with a small agency who could promise the same people each time. They were fab and definitely enabled her to stay in her own home far longer than would have otherwise been feasible.

Also, I suggest looking into a British Gas Homecare contract or similar and get yourself named on the contract as someone who can give them instructions too. I got the one which covers boilers, central heating, electrics and plumbing and it was an absolute godsend. That is the sort of thing you just do not want to be managing long distance. They prioritise pensioners too so when I rang up to say the boiler was not working or the electrics had blown they usually sent someone round within a couple of hours. Worth every penny in my view.

paulapantsdown Thu 25-Dec-14 23:41:16

Online shopping etc all great ideas.

Do you have power of attorney? If you has this now, you could handle all the bills/paperwork, which may take a worry away from them. It is something I would advise anyone to do anyway for the future.

MillyMollyMama Fri 26-Dec-14 01:48:34

I think it was not a good decision for them to move yet further away so recently! What were they thinking? All the suggestions above are great but the reality is that they could have been nearer to you had they chosen to be. We have had several friends in this position with parents in Cornwall which is a 4 hour drive from us. It has put a lot of strain on our friends and that length of journey, on a very regular basis, with children, and trying to maintain a family life, is virtually impossible. I assume the house move in the summer freed up some money so they are financially able to buy the services they may need.

Needmoresleep Fri 26-Dec-14 10:49:50

Mine too moved away, though perhaps a rational decision to move to the South coast from London. They enjoyed 15 yars of active and enjoyable retirement. When the crisis struck one option might have been to move DM back to London but honestly it made no sence. Provision in a town with a high proportion of elderly is so much better and thought my mother is not aware, she is still receiving a level support from the Church and from organisations she and my dad used to belong to.

In terms of management:
1. very sheltered housing. Fab. There is someone there 24 hours, a cooked lunch, laundry and cleaning, company and activites. Plus handyman support to change lightbulbs or organise and oversee more complex jobs.

2. carer coming in daily. This one has taken a while to crack. We had a very good carer initially but she went on maternity leave. Then nine months of near random people coming in and out, and now someone very wonderful who has the measure of my mother and who my mother likes. She is now booked for a couple of hours twice a week to take my mother out. This has made a huge difference to my mother's mood.

3. POA and a mail redirect. I do it all from home.

4. domicialiary opticians, a chemist who collects prescriptions from the GP and delivers to the sheltered housing after which the carer puts them in the Homebase safe, exacly the right size to fit the monthly cards, visiting chiropodist. The community dental service, note long waiting list, would also do home visits or provide transport, though I opted to take her for the first check up and treatment.

The next challenge is to find mail order clothing that will fit as my mother is less active these days and this is showing. I am thinking Damart, but if anyone had better ideas happy to hear.

Basics come from Tesco, who have a regular delivery to the care home. The carerr tells me wnat is needed. Cook! would deliver if my mother could use a microwave.

That said there has been a lot of travelling and often it seems easier to simply go down rather than organise from a distance. Without the support at the sheltered hosuing my mother would have to be in a home, which she would hate. My particuarly issue has been that my dad was an early adopter of buy-to-let, which has paid off finanically but which left me having to deal with a number of unmaintained and problematic properties. In the short term it seemed easier to sort them out rather than have a fire sale, but not much fun to drive for 5 hours simply to let plumber in. However it does mean I can recoup my own costs. When my father was ill I travelled down every weekend for four months, which at probably £100 a time took a considerable chunk out of our family finances. Perhaps my absent brother could have written out a cheque

My DC are teenagers and so it is much easier, plus I took the offer of redunancy a few years ago after the experience iwth my father, knowing full well that I could not cope with full time work and caring for a parent. Even so the five hour trips were knocking me out, and doing little for my relationship with my mother. We have lucked on an interesting solution which is to buy a holiday flat. (Complications around the POA means that I might be on shaky ground using one of my mother's properties.) Amazingly we are getting 95% occupancy in summer and 80% in winter which means we are covering our interest and running costs and yet have somewhere to stay. It therefore operates as a second home and though it might be more fun to go on holiday elsewhere the south coast is fine, and even an overnight stay means the journey is far less difficult with a chance to have social as well as functional visits. Indeed we are going down over New Year, and including a visit to the dentist, a "thank you" lunch for a couple who have done an awful lot for my parents, plus a chance to check things are OK and an outing for my mum. (I don't know why by additional chodres always appear and I end up spending at least a day chasing around.)

The in-laws are a decade younger so no crisis yet. They are a similar distance but in the opposite direction. Our thinking is that if there is a crisis, we might look to renting a chalet in a nearby holiday park. The owner has reassured us it would be really cheap for regular visits off-season. This would allow long weekends, in a nice part of the country. Train fares at the right time are not expensive, so perhaps that and taxis rather than driving.

Sorry this is long, but it has been two years of working out how to do it. That said it is still a minimum of a trip a month. It is lucky that my mother has money, but having said that semi independence in sheltered hosuing is far cheaper than a care home.

And if anyone is making regular trips to the South coast and a town which has a high proportion of elderly residents, PM and I will try to work out a special MN discount!

Needmoresleep Fri 26-Dec-14 10:50:33

I meant to cross out rather than underline.

offtoseethewizard64 Sun 28-Dec-14 14:40:06

I do most of my DMs shopping on-line from Tesco. She gives me a shopping list over the phone. She is also lucky to have a NDN who knocks and asks if she needs anything when she is going out to the shops - but can't carry all my Mum's shopping so just gets a few bits as needed.
DM has a carer going in to help with showering which was arranged through Social Care even though my Mum pays for it herself.
Clothes are bought from Damart/Chums both of which she hets catalogues through the post for and I order on-line to be delivered to her.
She eats M&S ready meals. Me/DB or NDN stock her freezer with these when we can.
Odd jobs and gardening are done by us or DB when we visit although she has used the Handyman service through Social Care for some things.
I do her paperwork as DF did all the finances before he died and so DM panics at the sight of an official letter.

I tried to get DM & DF to move near to us a few years ago but they had been in their house for 50 years and didn't want all the upheaval. I think they were both convinced that DM (who has always been in poor health) would die 1st and that DF, who was as strong as an ox at 86 would be fine by himself. How wrong could they be hmm

outtolunchagain Mon 29-Dec-14 11:09:24

I am worrying about this too,dm lives approximately 8 hours drive away and my stepfather is now terminally ill . She is in relatively good health at the moment but it only takes one thing to derail , she is also a very difficult women with whom I have a poor relationship . My only brother lives an 18 hour flight away hmm

Db is adopting an "it will all be fine" approach mainly because this means he doesn't then have to do anything other than sympathise on the phone and call me to tell me she isn't happy and suggest I "find it in my heart " to do x or y angry

But I need to focus on practical things otherwise it is going to be impossible

Needmoresleep Mon 29-Dec-14 11:33:21

Eight hours is a long way! DM was always difficult and DB was always her clear favourite. I don't think he is unusual in seemingly finding hard to rise to the challenge. Though it was tough, really tough, I am glad I did.

One thing you might look at is identifying what your stepfather does in terms of admin etc. DM was determined she was capable of taking over the domestic admin, banking etc. She probably would have been, but not starting at 80 and without being able to understand the internet. I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of years sorting out banking and investments, property maintenance and historic tax returns.

The ideal might be for your mother to agree to a move to somewhere with a bit more community and support after your stepfather has died, and to agree to a POA and you taking over some of the admin. (Easy to do via internet and if under control, not particuarly time consuming.) This would mean that personal possessions were rationalised early, clutter disposed of, and capital released into a more liquid form. A chance too for you to identify somewhere cheap and comfortable to stay should there be a later crisis.

That is the ideal..... However even if that does not work, no harm in researching options and having an idea of what is available should there be a crisis. I would also recommend getting to know helpful people: neighbours, local clergy etc, so they can alert you to problems and so you can show your appreciation.

Oh, and on remote organising, I set up a taxi account so others can take my mother places.

outtolunchagain Mon 29-Dec-14 11:42:23

Taxi account a very good idea , she is still driving but is not confident especially in bad weather . They live in a massive four bed two bath house which she will rattle around I. It must cost a fortune to heat but she is fairly OK dealing with the financial stuff.

The main problem is that she is on the one hand fairly anti social ( as is my stepfather ) but also complains of being lonely . They have lived there for 13 years but have barely spoken to the neighbours who definitely don't know My sf is ill .

Needmoresleep Mon 29-Dec-14 12:32:05

Looking back the days following my father's death were important. There was a load of admin, and I went with my mother to register the death, meet the funeral directors etc. I think at that point she might have agreed to me helping her more. However my brother was not on the same page and perhaps over estimated her capacity to carry on as she was. You might think about talking things through with your brother, and even if he provide any practical support, he might be willing to support you encouraging your mother moving to somewhere more sustainable.

I wish at this point I had pushed for a cleaner to come in regularly, or things like a key safe, panic button or whatever. I spent the next three years worrying each time she did not answer the phone, that she might be lying injured on the floor. (And indeed she later confessed she had got stuck in the bath and thought she was going to die there.)

Another area was home maintenance. In retrospect I should have got my mum to give me a list of chores and I should have organised a handyman to come in during a visit. It turned out she was too frightened to have anyone in the flat when she was on her own which meant that by the time the crisis happened drains were blocked so the washing machine was not working, the picture window was leaking, the oven stuck in timer mode, and she did not know how to turn on the heating. Very sad, but by then she was too proud to tell me. Not things you spot during short visits.

(Estate Agents who provide property management are often good for workmen recommendations. You could do a tour, asking about the value of your mothers house, get their views on the various local retirement and sheltered housing options and at the same time get a sense of which agent you would want to use should your mother decide to sell her house. Or, as I did, let the flat first so that she felt there was always the chance to go "home".)

Taxis are good if your mother is having to take your SF to hospital appointements. Or a disabled badge. My mother found this exhausting.

outtolunchagain Mon 29-Dec-14 13:24:07

Thank you need more , lots of excellent ideas and tips , I feeling a bit as if I am waiting for the train to hit the buffers at the moment and my db definitely over estimates both my parents abilities .

Needmoresleep Mon 29-Dec-14 15:17:24

Dont underestimate the toll your DSFs illness and the subsequent berevement will have on your mother.

I don't know how old she is and she may bounce back. In DMs case it took a toll both physically and mentally and she probably aged about 5 years in the six months my dad was ill. Dementia is also difficult as early symptoms are personality changes and defensiveness. So whilst my mother might have been open to logical discussion at an earlier stage, by the time she really needed help it was too late to do things in a reasoned way, and so a case of waiting till intervention became unavoidable.

Still it is useful to know what options are, and ideally find something sustainable that will appeal to your DM and be supported by your brother. Instead I ended up spending the best part of three months away from home sorting out my mother's affairs. Hard enough even though my children were teenagers and I was not working, and not practical for others.

Another tip, which my mother almost went along with, is if she is reluctant to agree to a POA, is to set up a seperate joint bank account or set up a third party mandate on one of her accounts so if something happened you would be able to access some money, eg to pay for respite care or physio etc if she were to suddenly end up in hospital.

outtolunchagain Mon 29-Dec-14 19:23:30

This is one of the things I am battling I just don't think my brother gets how exhausting the process is , and if he does its all a melodrama whereas I am much more focused on practical stuff .

I pointed out that two years ago she had shingles and couldn't drive for 2 months , his reaction was that she could always walk to the shops shock

apotatoprintinapeartree Mon 29-Dec-14 19:32:04

can you go over once a fortnight at the weekend, without your dh.
Also, you need a neighbours contact details and they need yours so they can get in touch if need be.
Can you take over the shopping, have it delivered for them.

Needmoresleep Mon 29-Dec-14 22:34:56

I found even a five hour round trip exhausting. Throw in a demanding and aggressive mother determined to assert her independence, the joys of NHS waiting rooms, and lots of chores and it would take days to recover. The times DH came with me were easier not least because DM was less able to use her emotional artillery.

16 hours round trip must be tough. The decision to find somewhere to stay so visits can in part be mini breaks has made a huge difference.

I've been in the same place with brothers. DM would regularly complain to my DB. He would relay these complaints to me and effectively suggest I tried a bit harder to keep her happy. Emotionally I found the lack of sympathy and support difficult as things were very tough for a while. However, and despite the dementia, I think she is now aware that I have stuck with it and that she has both support and independence.

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