Our own experience being far apart when parental care was needed
Our owners, Steve and Sharon Morris, know what it is like to be distance-separated from their aging parents. Steve and Sharon lived and worked in Singapore for over twenty-years. During the later years of their time there, Sharon’s father’s health began to fail. Every few months Sharon would take breaks from her teacher’s job to fly back to her parent’s home in Virginia (a 24-hour trip) to attend to her parent’s growing needs for care. Steve too, would put his leadership coaching business on pause every now and then so that he could return to Virginia as well to look in on his mother as well as Sharon’s parents.
Eventually, Steve and Sharon decided that they needed to be physically closer to their parents to support them as they aged (but not too close). They settled into the Pacific Northwest so that Steve could phase out of his Singapore-based business while he and Sharon both started new careers as owners of Right at Home Northwest. Even then, the travel to Virginia was an all-day affair and the need for trips increased as Sharon’s mother, Moyna, became frailer and with increasing anxiety from mild dementia.
The Challenges of Coordinating Remote Care
Moyna wanted to stay in her own home but was stricken with mild dementia (which she herself did not accept or understand). It became clear that she needed in-home care and monitoring for her own safety and well-being. The family arranged for a local professional caregiver to provide live-in care for Moyna. Coordinating care 3,000 miles away proved just as challenging as it was from 12,000 miles away when Sharon resided in Singapore - just with shorter plane rides.
Moyna would call and accuse her caregivers of this or that – with mild dementia, the problem is sometimes Moyna would be describing reality and at other times she would have confused notions, yet she would think whatever she though was real and true. The representatives from the care agency would give a different set of accounts. Without being there herself, Sharon’s peace of mind was unsettled to say the least.
The hardest part was in not knowing for certain that she could trust the caregivers and the agency to care for her mother, as she would want her to be cared for. Sharon needed someone who would look at the big picture of Moyna’s needs and situation and not just at the caregiving tasks assigned to them. What she really wanted was to have a clone of herself on the ground acting as a proxy local daughter and/or family member. She decided to address this special challenge in our own agency be recruiting and mentoring Care Managers that to be good proxy family members, if needed.
The Role of the Care Manager as a Your Family’s Local Representative
At Right at Home Northwest, a Care Manager is assigned to each of our clients. Their role is to oversee the client’s care, supervise their professional caregivers, make home visits and check-in calls, and to coordinate and communicate with family members, as needed. Care Managers understand that in distance-separated family situations, it is they and their Care Management Team that are the family’s eyes, ears, arms and legs in regards to overseeing their parents’ changing care needs.
If you need additional local assistance for some of the tasks that you might struggle doing remotely – sitting in a physician’s visit, finding contractors and repairmen, checking out other living arrangements, organizing gardeners, etc. – you can ask your Care Manager for local help. Of course, a fee is involved but it is far less than the costs of a plane ride and the disruption to your other commitments. Our goal is to bring you peace of mind at an affordable cost.
The Right People doing the Right Things brings peace of mind
Knowing that your loved one is care for as if be a family member is particularly comforting. Knowing that the caregivers are professional, competent, and compassionate and that they are trained to spot and report changes in condition gives remote family members additional peace of mind. Sharon’s hiring standard is simple – no matter how experience or credentials someone may have, is she did not feel comfortable with them caring for her own mother, she wouldn’t hire them. She has passed on this standard to our other Care Managers and recruitment staff as our own Right Care recruitment litmus test.
Stay connected through the family portal
One of the options we have for family members who are not local but still want to be updated and involved in their loved one’s care is our online portal called the Family Room. It serves as a dashboard where you can view schedules, track charges and payments, coordinate events and appointments, and update the Right at Home care management team about information relevant to your loved one’s care. Through the Family Room portal you even have the option to monitor your loved one’s care visits as they happen.
Access to the Family Room can be grated to as many or as few family members as you choose. During the initial consultation, at least one member of the family will be identified as a Family Room administrator. Family Room administrators are able to make adjustments to what each family member is able to see from their individual dashboards. For example, information about your loved one’s shift calendar and care logs may be seen by all while information about invoices and medication lists may be kept private.
The Family Room is also a great tool for two-way communication with our Care Management team. Whenever you send a message through the Family Room, a To-Do task is immediately created so that a member of the Care Management team can follow up. For urgent requests and immediate needs, we will still ask that you call us on the phone, but if you simply need to request a change to the plan of care or let us know about a medication update, the Family Room makes communication easy!