If there are 5 million long-distance caregivers, why do I feel so alone?

Sunday’s USA Weekend (February 4, 2007) ran an article about caring for your aging parents while living far away from them. I was surprised to see that I am one of 5 million long distance caregivers in the United States.

The author noted that when his mother became ill he struggled to deal with the distance (2 hours away by car.).

I can relate. My dad lives 3000 miles away.

When I first became his helper three years ago, Dad was living in his own home. What he needed from me was a second opinion. So easy to do by phone!

 Combined with occasional visits, that worked well for a while. Then, his medical conditions got worse.

He has been in and out of the hospital and “rehab” since 11/29/06. The ups and downs of his medical conditions are somewhat expected.  

But, I’ve been totally caught offguard by the medical folks whose systems don’t accomodate anyone who isn’t standing next to them.

For example, I have been waiting 3 1/2 weeks to receive a faxed copy of my father’s care plan from the “rehab” facility (a skilled nursing facility that helps a patient transition back to regular life after a hospital stay).

Medicare requires them to develop a care plan within 48 hours of the patient’s arrival.  The patient has the right to participate in developing the plan and have a representative participate as well.

The social worker phoned me to tell me about the meeting, but there was no way I could participate because they did not have a speaker phone in the room. (I found out later that they do have a speaker phone in another room.)

They tell me the care plan is completed but they have to get approval from “the corporate office” before they can release it to me.

Makes me wonder just what it says that needs approval.

I’ve phoned over and over, moving up the chain of command. Faxed back a request form. Still no report.

I’m frustrated because my father can’t remember what has been said to him. They never called him to sit in on his own care plan meeting. He’s frustrated because he just wants to go home.

Fortunately, the staff at his assisted living retirement community are following up, too. They are experienced nursing and social work professionals who want to make my dad’s return home successful.  They have been an invaluable resource for my dad and me as he has needed more help.