Caregiving Across the Miles

According to the National Center on Caregiving, unpaid family caregivers are the largest source of long-term care services in the United States.

By: Sherry Clark | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: May 2008

Sherry Clark, director of volunteers with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), offers senior safety advice to long-distance caregivers.

According to the National Center on Caregiving, unpaid family caregivers are, and likely will continue to be, the largest source of long-term care services in the United States. It is estimated that there will be 37 million caregivers by 2050, an increase of 85 percent from 2000.

Up to seven million people are currently classified as long-distance caregivers, or people who are responsible for an older adult that lives more than an hour away. Today it is quite common for family members to live in different cities or states. Whether it’s 20 miles away or 3,000 miles, this can pose a challenge to adult children whose older parents’ health changes, requiring the children to become involved in making decisions about their safety and well-being. Here are some tips to help if you are in this situation:  

Learn all you can about your older adult’s illness, disease or condition.

Establish a strong network of friends and neighbors near your older adult. Learn about community resources and services that are available in their community. In Tulsa, contact LIFE Senior Services at 664-9000 to learn about what community resources are available for seniors. For other non-emergency social service information in Tulsa, call 211.

Identify your older adult’s medical, financial and housing needs so that you can organize your visits in advance to accomplish as much as possible.

If appropriate, buy your loved one a medical alert system. Or consider giving him or her a used cell phone to be employed for 911 emergency calls. Federal law requires that used cell phones remain functional even without an account, to be used for 911 emergency calls. Be sure to carry your own cell phone, or have a reliable answering machine or voicemail service for emergency messages. Give your telephone number to a trusted neighbor of the older adult. Consider leaving the neighbor a duplicate house key.

Keep an up-to-date information file concerning your loved one, including healthcare needs, housing requirements, decisions being made by others on their behalf, and any changes in status.    If the senior’s conditions worsen, hire a local geriatric care manager. Call LIFE Senior Services’ Seniorline for listings.

Do the best you can, remain attentive and let go of issues that are outside of your control.

One of the benefits Tulsa offers to older citizens is a Triad. A Triad provides an opportunity for the exchange of information between law enforcement and senior citizens and focuses on reducing unwarranted fear of crime and improving the quality of life for seniors. Triad is a three-way effort among the Tulsa County Sheriff, Tulsa Police Department and LIFE Senior Services, as well as older and retired leadership in the area, to work together to reduce the criminal victimization of older citizens and enhance the delivery of law enforcement services to this population. Some active Triad agency members are RSVP, Tulsa Area Agency on Aging, St. John Hospital, Oklahoma Insurance Department, OKDHS Adult Protective Services, Family Safety Center and the Mayor’s Office.

For more information about caregiving across the miles, Tulsa’s Triad or any other senior issues, call LIFE Senior Services at 664-9000. Or go online to

For more information, contact

LIFE Senior Services

(918) 664-9000

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