Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Millions now manage aging parents' care from afar

WEST PALM BEACH — Kristy Bryner worries her 80-year-old mom might slip and fall when she picks up the newspaper, or that she'll get in an accident when she drives to the grocery store. What if she has a medical emergency and no one's there to help? What if, like her father, her mother slips into a fog of dementia?

Those questions would be hard enough if Bryner's aging parent lived across town in Portland, Ore., but she is in Kent, Ohio. The stress of caregiving seems magnified by each of the more than 2,000 miles that separate them.

"I feel like I'm being split in half between coasts," said Bryner, 54. "I wish I knew what to do, but I don't."

As lifespans lengthen and the number of seniors rapidly grows, more Americans find themselves in Bryner's precarious position, struggling to care for an ailing loved one from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

The National Institute on Aging estimates around 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers. Aside from economic factors that often drive people far from their hometowns, shifting demographics in the country could exacerbate the issue: Over the next four decades, the share of people 65 and older is expected to rapidly expand while the number of people under 20 will roughly hold steady. That means there will be a far smaller share of people between 20 and 64, the age group that most often is faced with caregiving.

"You just want to be in two places at once," said Kay Branch, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, but helps coordinate care for her parents in Lakeland, about 3,800 miles away.

There are no easy answers.

Bryner first became a long-distance caregiver when, more than a decade ago, her father began suffering from dementia, which consumed him until he died in 2010. She used to be able to count on help from her brother, who lived close to their parents, but he died of cancer a few years back. Her mother doesn't want to leave the house she's lived in for so long.

So Bryner talks daily with her mother via Skype, a video telephone service. She's lucky to have a job that's flexible enough that she's able to visit for a couple of weeks every few months. But she fears what may happen when her mother is not as healthy as she is now.

"Someone needs to check on her, someone needs to look out for her," she said. "And the only someone is me, and I don't live there."

Many long-distance caregivers say they insist on daily phone calls or video chats to hear or see how their loved one is doing. Oftentimes, they find another relative or a paid caregiver they can trust who is closer and able to help with some tasks.

Yet there always is the unexpected: medical emergencies, problems with insurance coverage, urgent financial issues. Problems become far tougher to resolve when you need to hop on a plane or make a daylong drive.

Even for those who live near those they care for, travel for work can frequently make it a long-distance affair. Evelyn Castillo-Bach lives in Pembroke Pines, the same town as her 84-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer's disease.

But she is on the road roughly half the year, sometimes for months at a time, both for work with her own Web company and accompanying her husband, a consultant for the United Nations.

Once, she was en route from Kosovo to Denmark when she received a call alerting her that her mother was having kidney failure and appeared as if she would die. She needed to communicate her mother's wishes from afar as her panicked sister tried to search their mother's home for her living will. Castillo-Bach didn't think she could make it in time to see her mother alive once more.

"I won't get to touch my mother again," she thought.

She was wrong. Her mother pulled through. But she says it illustrates what long-distance caregivers so frequently go through.

"This is one of the things that happens when you're thousands of miles away," Castillo-Bach said.

Lynn Feinberg, a caregiving expert at AARP, said the number of long-distance caregivers is likely to grow, particularly as a sagging economy has people taking whatever job they can get, wherever it is. Though caregiving is a major stress on anyone, distance can often magnify it, Feinberg said, and presents particular difficulty when it must be balanced with an inflexible job.

"It's a huge stress," she said. "It can have enormous implications not only for someone's quality of life, but also for someone's job."

It can also carry a huge financial burden. A November 2007 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, a division of United Health Group, found annual expenses incurred by long-distance caregivers averaged about $8,728, far more than caregivers who lived close to their loved one. Some also had to cut back on work hours, take on debt of their own and slash their personal spending.

Even with that in mind, though, many long-distance caregivers say they don't regret their decision.

Comments
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration

Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration

TAMPA — Machines of war will unleash their fury in downtown Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s just a demonstration.Special operations forces from around the world are scheduled to stage a mock confrontation of good guys versus bad guys from 1:30...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

And you thought our headline would be "Mariota hosts NFL draft before Winston."The NFL owners are meeting in Atlanta this week, and that means a new batch of future Super Bowls getting announced for their homes.A year ago, Tampa got the huge news, an...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg-based contract electronics company Jabil announced Wednesday it has expanded in Israel by opening an Optics Technology Innovation Center.The 2,000-sqaure-foot complex is in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. "Our Optics Innovation Cen...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Gasparilla Bowl moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium

Gasparilla Bowl moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium

The Gasparilla Bowl is heading across the bay.The annual college football bowl game is moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium, the Tampa Bay Times has confirmed. Brett McMurphy first reported the move.The game has been played for 10 con...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Twitter agrees: This plaque looks nothing like Brandi Chastain

Twitter agrees: This plaque looks nothing like Brandi Chastain

A bronze plaque meant to honor U.S. soccer great Brandi Chastain is said to look more like actor Gary Busey or Biff from Back to the Future than it does the World Cup winner and Olympic athlete.In a ceremony hosted Monday at the Westin St. Francis Ho...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dade City honors deputy killed 15 years ago

Dade City honors deputy killed 15 years ago

DADE CITY — Fifteen years after the slaying of Pasco Sheriff’s Capt. Charles "Bo" Harrison brought shock and sadness to the community that loved him, emotions still run high as more honors come his way.Pasco County is preparing to honor Harrison’s me...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A man posed for months as an ICE agent. A traffic stop led his girlfriend to unravel the truth.

A man posed for months as an ICE agent. A traffic stop led his girlfriend to unravel the truth.

Those who knew 26-year-old Matthew Johnston never questioned whether he was actually an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.Johnston, after all, wore a uniform. His tactical vest bore "ICE" and "Federal Agent" patches, and he carried an ICE Cou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pilot-hungry airlines are raiding flight schools - creating a shortage of instructors to train the next generation

Pilot-hungry airlines are raiding flight schools - creating a shortage of instructors to train the next generation

Airlines’ insatiable demand for pilots threatens to sabotage flight schools’ ability to train new ones. Carriers are raising wages and hoarding every available pilot - including the instructors schools rely on to teach incoming students.The very pilo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Philip Roth, towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America, dies at 85

Philip Roth, towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America, dies at 85

Philip Roth, whose sexually scandalous comic novel "Portnoy’s Complaint" brought him literary celebrity after its publication in 1969 and who was eventually hailed as one of America’s greatest living authors for the blunt force and controlled fury of...
Updated: 2 hours ago