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Tips for looking after Ageing Parents – Long Distance

Article by Kay Newton

I am often asked how I cope with my aging parents being so far away. How can I sleep at night without worrying about them, how could I possibly leave them and live in another country.

Yet for me living in Majorca, is no different than living in the South of England and your parents living up North – it still takes time to cover the distance! I made the decision to move countries over 26 years ago when my parents health was not an issue. I have always followed the philosophy that if you have to do something, you have to do it, no matter what others may think.

The past five year have certainly been the toughest, I have  worried about my Mum and my Dad after Mum had her severe stroke which paralyzed her left side.

At first, the worry was all about getting her home safe. Then it was making sure the care plan worked and all the teething troubles were ironed out. Dad had to get used to a new routine which was only made bearable by the love he had for my Mum. I visited as often as I could to help relieve the monotony for all, which left strain upon my own family as they too had to learn to cope with half a Mum.

We no sooner seemed to have got everything running smoothly when mum passed away in October 2011. My father went from having constant interruptions four times a day, to not seeing a soul from week to week. From a rigid routine to no routine, from having a reason to get out of bed to no reason at all.

Now I have worry of a different nature.

 8 tips to make looking after ageing parents long distance easier

There are a few fundamental rules I have kept to in order to remain sane throughout this last five years:

1. Don’t worry unnecessarily! My parents used to say to me ‘no news is good news!’ By not attempting to make up ‘what if’ scenarios on a daily basis I have saved myself a lot of pain. I am guaranteed to hear about the truly worrying stories immediately!

2. Dad and I have had a daily telephone call time, nine pm most evenings I will call him for a chat (Skype means I don’t have to pay for these calls). I let him tell me all his news without interrupting, whether I’ve heard it before or not. It helps him remember things and relieves his boredom and loneliness. It also helps me gauge how things are day by day, which is a whole lot easier than week by week.

3. Let go of all your anger and never attempt to presume you understand another persons point of view. I had to let go of the way my brother has coped with the past five years, I have had to let go of anger and although I may not agree with his actions, nor his points of view, he is entitled to them and me to mine. At least we can still talk with each other about our parents.

4. I have an arrangement with a good friend of mine. If I am really worried she will phone my Dad and jump in the car if necessary, she live 10 minutes away.

5. I have the phone number of my father’s doctor handy, should I need it in case of emergency.

6. I plan in advance trips back to the UK so that Dad can place the dates on his calendar and has something to look forward to.

7. Dad has all his papers in order, with a list of instructions as and when I need them. All inevitabilities have been talked about and a plan made if it is needed.

8. We take each day as it comes.

When you have aging parents, the least of your worry is the distance that lies between you in terms of miles or kilometers. I don’t worry about that distance. I am 20 minutes away from the airport, and can usually find a flight within the hour to the UK. Monarch helped me out last time … I left my home at 4.30 pm and arrived at my fathers by midnight – not bad to say I didn’t have a ticket!

The distance you have between your parents in terms of your heart is the only distance that has to be covered… before its too late.

You can find Kay at http://www.SensiblySelfish.com

Photo credit: Worradmu

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