Helping Your Aging Parents from Afar
Do you want to help your aging parents but don’t live close by? Often older folks find it daunting to deal with everyday issues such as clarifying bills or insurance questions or making arrangements with caregivers. If you were there, next to your parents, all these things would be ironed out in no time. Both you and your parents would be on the same page regarding any paperwork or household arrangements, giving you peace of mind.
One simple solution is to facilitate telephone conference calls with your parents and the third party. Everyone hears the whole discussion and can ask questions and make decisions quickly. My 81-year-old father just cannot operate a mobile phone himself. When my father is concerned about a bill, his home, or taxes etc. I just call him on my iPhone and then add the other party via a three-way conference call. This way, he is involved with the process and can authorize any decisions or suggestions I have. I can ask questions and probe every area to my satisfaction, and not have to repeat the information to my father later. The third parties also like these conference calls as they can often complete the business in one session with my help, and I can guide arrangements to be convenient to both sides. Many smartphones and telephone plans allow three-way conference calls. My father just answers my phone call, and does not need to know anything about telephone conferencing.
Here are the steps to setting up a conference call on your iPhone or Android phone:
1. Call your parent as you normally would. Let your parent know that you’re going to add other callers.
2. Tap the Add Call button on your smartphone.
3. After the second person answers your call, tap the Merge Calls button.
4. You might want to practice the conference call process outlined above with your parent and other family members, so that your parent feels comfortable during important discussion with the bank or the doctor.
In addition, I keep photos of my father’s list of medicines he is taking, his medical card, driver’s license, social security card and other important documents with me. This also comes in handy when we tele-conference with the bank or the doctor because it often takes him a while to find his wallet and other important documents. It is just as though I was present at my father’s home with access to all these documents and things during the conference calls.
Another helpful tool is to have the user ID and passwords for my father’s online accounts. I have online accounts for his bank, credit card companies, medical clinic, etc. It is so convenient being able to access the information, issue orders or communicate with the institutions electronically. Of course, my father belongs to the generation who is fearful the computer might ‘blow up’ upon pressing the wrong key. Nevertheless, I have created online accounts at every institution possible where he transacts business with. I can monitor what is going on and have an accurate status without pestering my father. I can send messages to his doctors directly on his behalf and get responses usually within 24 hours. This has been very helpful for clarifying medicine dosages and for getting needed forms completed. You can contact the medical provider to find out if they require any verbal or signed consent form from your parent. Being able to provide effective help from a distance facilitates my parents staying at home independently with a better quality of life.
Of course, I’d like my parents to visit me too. Being retired, parents can travel whenever they want and stay for as long as they wish. However, as they get older they are less confident about navigating the maze at the airport and keeping up with transit procedures. If your parent is also uncomfortable traveling alone and would like some assistance flying from airport to airport, you can consider hiring them a flight companion (a passenger already on the same flight) using TripCompanion.com. Using TripCompanion, they regain the ability to travel whenever they want.