Long distance caregiving poses unique challenges. From not being able to see a loved one to assess their physical condition to wondering what foods are in their pantry, adult children who live far from an aging parent might find themselves wondering how their loved one is really faring.
What is a Long Distance Caregiver?If you live more than an hour away from someone who needs your help, you are technically considered to be a long distance caregiver.
Caring across the miles may take many forms. From providing emotional support to the primary family caregiver to arranging for in-home care aides or serving as the family’s information coordinator, long distance caregivers assume many roles.
If you are just getting started, here’s some long distance caregiving tips to help you make a smooth transition.
Where Should a New Long Distance Caregiver Start?Begin by scheduling a family meeting that includes your senior living loved one and all family members who will be involved with care. Take stock of available resources and capabilities and make a list of your loved one’s needs. Divide responsibilities based on geography, talents, and finances.
Whenever possible, it is best to have this meeting in person. If a faraway family member just can’t be there, take advantage of a video chat service like Skype to allow them to more fully participate.
Next, Get Organized
Create a binder with important information such as medical history, medications, physician contacts, allergies and appointments. Make sure to list emergency contacts and instructions on where critical supplies are kept, such as the blood pressure cuff and blood sugar monitors. The AARP Care Giving Resource Center has more helpful information on what your caregiving binder should include.
Research Your Loved One's Illness
Educate yourself to better understand your loved one’s illness, treatment options and what to expect as the illness advances. Learn as much as you can, including who your loved one’s healthcare providers are.
Be sure your parent gives you written permission to receive medical and financial information from their health care providers.
Talk with Local Friends and Neighbors
Get to know your aging loved one’s friends and neighbors and make sure each of them knows how to contact you if they have concerns. They may be able to offer insight on what is happening on a daily basis when you can’t be there in person. Some religious organizations also have staff or volunteers who make regular visits to homebound seniors who are members.
Seek Professional Help
If necessary, hire professionals to help with meal preparation, personal care needs and housekeeping. Employing a Geriatric Care Manager near your loved one can provide you with a good local resource.
Maintain Regular Contact
Set up times for regular phone calls and video chats. Send your loved one digital pictures of yourself and, if possible, arrange to Face Time or Skype.
Cards and letters received in the mail are always appreciated and fun.
Make Personal Visits Count
When visiting in person, make a list of things that need to be accomplished, such as physician appointments, legal meetings, and home maintenance.
Be sure to check the house to identify potential safety concerns.
Also remember to set aside time for activities your loved one enjoys and for honest, heartfelt conversations about their situation.
Develop a Relationship with a Senior Living Community
Finally, take time to explore local senior living communities. Most can arrange a short-term stay to help you decide if the community would be a good long-term solution in the event of an emergency. You will gain peace of mind knowing you have a back-up plan in place.