Q: I live 3,000 miles away from my father and he needs live-in help, but I’m worried about elder abuse since I can’t be there to monitor the caregivers. What can I do to protect my father and feel more comfortable with hiring caregivers?

A: I would hire a Geriatric Care Manager (visit www.caremanager.org) who lives very close to your father, who can be your ongoing eyes and ears in your absence. Make sure she/he has been a GERIATRIC care manager and has lived in that area for an extended period of time. Ask for five references of families she has worked with recently, check them all, and make sure you feel confident before hiring—you will be on the phone with her a lot.

The Geriatric Care Manger will go to your father's home and evaluate the entire situation and advise you on how/where to get everything in place for him. She will know the best live-in caregiver organizations in that area and probably be familiar with the directors and caregivers personally—so her recommendations will be of great value.

I would also install a "nanny-cam" so I could monitor my father's care and make sure the caregivers knew they were being observed everywhere in the home. You don't want to see a heartbreaking scene of someone abusing to your father after the fact--you want to do everything you can to prevent it. Your Geriatric Care Manager will know the best companies in the area who can install that for you.

And prior to anyone going into your father's home, you need to go there and make sure all valuables are locked up as you don't want any temptation in anyone's path. Pack up the jewelry, china, crystal, silver, and anything special you want to be sure to have after your father passes. Make sure you have a copy of his Will, Advance Directives, Living Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate--if he wants that), and all his important papers, phone numbers, account numbers, etc. Also, be sure to make friends with all the neighbors, exchange contact info, and ask for their help in checking on your father and letting you know what they observe.