Managing Care for a Senior Parent When You’re Away

Covering caregiving in your absence.
How to handle your parent’s care while you’re away.



Everyone deserves a break, especially caregivers. Taking time away from caring for someone else is important for your mental and physical well-being. Unfortunately, orchestrating a care plan for when you are away or sick is can feel like an impossible task. How can you ensure your elderly parent is cared for when you are away?


Evaluate the Need:


How long will you be away?
How much care does your senior parent need in your absence?
Are there people in your social network who can cover for you while you are away?


If you don’t have family who can cover for you, would they be willing to help cover the cost of care in your absence?


Will your senior parent be comfortable with the stand-in caregiver, and if not, how can you make them comfortable prior to your departure?


There are a lot of considerations when deciding who to bring in as back up and how much time you’ll need someone to fill your shoes. If you are caring for someone with dementia or a medical condition, they will probably need round the clock care, while someone who is relatively independent, may just need assistance with meals or some self-care tasks.


Once you’ve determined the care needs, look first to your personal network to determine if someone in your circle can jump in. Do you have a family member who has been offering to help but you haven’t felt comfortable reaching out? Is there a friend of your mom or dad who might be available to check in?


My aunt has dementia and is cared for by her son and daughter-in-law. For years, they never went anywhere without her, limiting the travel they could do with their young son. Finally, after several years of only traveling to destinations appropriate for their 75 year old mother, they took my mom up on her offer to have my aunt stay with her for a long weekend. They were able to do an active family vacation that she would not have been able to participate in.


It was wonderful for them to have a more carefree vacation and wonderful for my mom and aunt to spend time together. They now take little getaways without my aunt semi-regularly, which is great for everyone involved. If someone has offered to help you, take them up on their offer. They wouldn’t offer if they didn’t mean it, and if they did, well, I guess they’ll learn not to do that in the future.


If you don’t have someone who can assist you in your network, you’ll need to outsource. While this is the much more expensive route, your mental and physical well-being is important. You would tell a friend to make sure they are caring for themselves as well, so take your own advice.

Hiring a Care Provider:

The type of care you bring in depends on the type of care your parent needs. If your parent has dementia and you haven’t hired a caregiver in the past, reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association for recommendations on care providers. They can also guide you in how to make the transition easiest for your parent. You will likely need to bring in the caregiver(s) a few time prior to your departure so that they can understand your routines and get familiar with your parent’s preferences.


If you are enlisting care for a mostly independent parent, you will need to determine how much assistance they will need. Do they just need someone to grocery shop and perhaps prepare meals and make sure they are taking medication? You might consider hiring a caregiver for 3-4 hours a few times while you’re away. Do they need someone to take them out for a walk or take them to a medical appointment? You can hire a caregiver just for the time you need them, or in some areas, there are senior companion services, which have a smaller minimum hour requirement. Whatever service you go with, make sure the person is licensed and insured and will have a good rapport with your parent.


Making a Smooth Getaway:

No matter what kind of care your parent needs, it will be most successful if you provide whoever is stepping in with a detailed care plan. This will take a little up front work on your end, but you can save it and use it for the next time you take a little getaway or are unwell and need someone to step in.


What should you include in your care plan? Obviously, you will need to consider your parent’s individual needs and how much time the caregiver will be with your parent, but these are general questions to answer:


  • What time does your parent wake up?


  • What is the morning routine – personal care needs, breakfast, medication, activities?


  • What are the medications your parent takes during the day and how should they be administered – i.e. with or without food, with or without citrus or dairy


  • What are your parent’s food preferences?


  • Are there foods or activities that are off limits/allergies?


  • What types of activities or music does your parent prefer? Do they go out for walks, if so, when and with whom?


  • Is there an emergency contact list? Are doctors and family members included on the list?


  • Is there an afternoon routine?


  • What is the evening routine?


  • If your parent has dementia and becomes agitated, what can they do to help your parent calm down?


  • Are there personality quirks they should be aware of? Are there conversations they should stay away from?


  • If your parent has dementia, what topics can the caregiver bring up to engage your parent? For example, I worked with a gentleman who was an economics professor. He loved to talk about teaching and would spend a half hour explaining how he worked with his students and how successful they were. However, if I asked him how his weekend was, he would get annoyed because he couldn’t remember last weekend.


  • Are there any other tools the caregiver can use to connect with your parent?


This may seem tedious, but the more detail you provide, the easier the transition will be for everyone.


Now, Go:

The only way to know whether this is going to work or not, is to just do it. Remember, it is critical to care for yourself so that you have the ability to care for others. If you are concerned that your parent won’t be able to get along without you, start with a night or two. Very little damage can happen in just one night, especially if everyone is prepared. However, while very little damage can happen to your parent, it will make a huge impact on you to have the freedom to put your own needs first for a change. If you don’t want to go far, just stay at a local hotel. Stay in your room, watch trash TV, eat room service, read a book. Enjoy your time of solitude!


Do you have solutions to make a getaway easier?



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