Organizing paperwork as a long distance caregiver

April 29, 2013

My friends who have been caregivers say that a lot of what they did was organizing paperwork.   Is that a good way to be helpful?

Yes. That’s one way that a long-distance caregiver can be a big help.  An important part of effective caregiving depends on keeping a great deal of information in order and up-to-date. Often, long-distance caregivers will need access to a parent’s personal, health, financial and legal records. If you have ever tried to gather and organize your own personal information, you know what a chore it can be. Getting

all this material together is a lot of work at first, and from far away it can seem even more challenging. But once you have gathered everything together, many other caregiving tasks will be easier. Maintaining current information about your parent’s health and medical care, as well as finances, home ownership, and other legal

issues, lets you get a handle on what is going on and allows you to respond more quickly if there is a crisis. If you do not see your parent often, one visit may not be enough time for you to get all the paperwork organized. Instead, try to focus on gathering the essentials first; you can fill in the blanks as you go along. You might begin by talking to your parent and his or her primary caregiver about the kinds of records that need to be pulled together. If a primary caregiver is already on the scene, chances are that some of the information has already been assembled. Talk about any missing information or documentation and how you might help to organize the records. It is also a good idea to check at the same time to make sure that all financial matters, including wills and life insurance policies, are in order. It will also help if someone also has a durable power of attorney (the legal document naming one person to handle financial and property issues for another).

Your parents may be reluctant to share personal information with you. Explain that you are not trying to invade their privacy or take over their personal lives—you are only trying to assemble what will be needed in the event of an emergency. Assure them that you will respect their privacy, and then keep your promise. If your parents are still uncomfortable, ask if they would be willing to work with an attorney (some lawyers specialize in elder affairs)

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the National Institute on Aging for this valuable content.


Within Acorn’s service area of Chapel Hill, Durham and surrounding areas in North Carolina (Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Morrisville, Cary, and Apex) the following resources may be especially helpful:

 Orange County Department on Aging 

2551 Homestead Road

Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516

(919) 968-2070


Durham Center for Senior Life

406 Rigsbee Avenue – Suite 202

Durham, North Carolina   27701
(919) 688-8247


Chatham County Council on Aging

365 North Carolina 87

Pittsboro, North Carolina   27312

(919) 542-4512


Triangle J Area Agency on Aging

4307 Emperor Boulevard
Suite 110

Durham, NC 27703



Resources for Seniors (Wake County)

1110 Navaho Dr. Suite 400

Raleigh, NC 27609



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