Aging Parents: Part 2 - I'm OK, You're OK
Living far away from an aging parent creates a constant hum of guilt and worry that is carried throughout each day. My father lives far away, but is surrounded by other family members who are capable of caring for him and being there for an emergency. Mom, however, lives on her own in Florida. My niece lives about an hour away, but is in her twenties and travels for work. My sense of responsibility tells me that I am responsible for my mom, so that is why I carry this worry and guilt.
After moving from Florida to Iowa for my husband's work, I attempted to convince my mom to move with us. She lives in a warm Florida paradise with a low-cost home. Common sense told her that it is best that she stay there. I see her point and will not push her to move if she doesn't want to. But she knows I would prefer to have her here in Iowa with me.
As a planner by nature, I feel as if I should plan for the day I get a phone call to tell me she has had a medical episode and needs me to fly to Florida. There is no way for me to predict what will happen or when, so I simply have to be prepared for anything. I am currently trying to start a business, so finances will not allow me to drop everything and spend time in Florida. I decided to look into finding an advocate to hire, for when this "thing" happens.
In my mind, an advocate would be a person with whom I know and trust to watch over the care that my mom would be receiving in the hospital. If you have ever spent any time in a hospital, you know that mistakes happen. Most patients are not prepared for the information they receive from the doctors and medical decisions they are forced to make. Information gets lost and crossed, leaving someone in danger of making the wrong decision. Everyone, no matter what age, should have a trusted friend or family member be a standing advocate for those times of need.
After some light research, I learned that the hospital would not share medical information with this person without consent from my mom. There is no way to know if she will have the ability to sign a consent form, so it will need to be decided ahead of time. I don't want this advocate to make decisions for my mother's care. If I did give them this power, they would have to be on the POA (Power of Attorney) paperwork, which currently has my brother and me listed.
With the holidays and life, in general, it all just seemed like too much to worry about right now. Our interim plan is for mom to stay healthy and out of the hospital. If something happens, I have the phone numbers of a couple of her friends who may be able to meet her at the hospital for comfort while I get myself on a plane to see her. This doesn't seem like the best plan for many reasons, but it is all we have for now.
Mom's doing OK. I talk to her every day and text even more. I'm doing OK, if I need to rush to Florida I can use a credit card for plane tickets and figure out the rest later. As my business grows, I will be able to put some money aside for the impending doom that I feel is going to happen. For now, I'm OK, mom's OK, it's the best we can do.
Are you experiencing a similar situation? Below are some resources to help guide you through the process of finding a healthcare advocate for your aging parent or transitioning them to a different living situation.
The ADVOCConnection Directory - A directory of private, independent, professional patient advocates and navigators.
CarePro Health Services - Offering assistance for senior transitioning, as well as blogs that provide some good information.
The Heritage Agency - Provides information, events, and classes for caregivers and seniors.
AbbeHealth Aging Services - Provides services and resources to help older adults stay independent.
*These resources have not been tested by or are endorsed by EasternIowaNow.com.