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Lifestyle

June 22, 2014

The 'unexpected second career'

Caring for elderly parents a challenge for baby boomers

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third in a three-Sunday series taking a look at trends among baby boomers as the youngest of the generation turns 50 years old.

Just a generation ago, aging family members typically had at least one relative living nearby. These days, many are being cared for by baby boomer children who live far away.

Balancing careers and kids of their own, these grown children may find it difficult to move closer to parents who have begun to need daily help.

Caregiving has become "an unexpected second career" for many people in their 50s and 60s, says Tamar Shovali, who studies gerontology and teaches at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

"And distance caregiving is really difficult," she says.

If moving nearer to each other isn't an option, how can you provide care and support for an aging parent from afar?

MAXIMIZE VISITS

Make the most of periodic visits to your parents' home, says Amy Goyer, AARP's family and caregiving expert.

Look around to see what sort of shape it is in and consider modifications (hand rails in a hallway?) that might make it safer and more convenient.

Meet briefly with any doctors your parents see regularly so you can develop a connection. Ask questions. Make sure that a prescription written by one doctor isn't conflicting with a prescription from another. This will make it easier to continue managing a parent's medical care by phone.

Also, choose a point person who lives nearby and is willing to visit your parents regularly to note any changes in their health, behavior or daily abilities.

"You can talk to them on the phone, you can even Skype and still not get a full picture," Goyer says. You need someone on-site to tell you what they're seeing.

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