Families can visit one another’s homes and even plan joint vacations. Phone calls and video chats allow everyone to feel more connected. As a senior loved one grows older and begins to need more help, however, the distance can seem greater.
When you are caregiving for a senior who lives an hour or more away, you are a long-distance caregiver. In simplest terms, that means you are trying to manage the daily tasks of caregiving, such as scheduling physician appointments, overseeing in-home caregivers, paying bills, and arranging transportation, from a distance.
It can be a challenging role if you live nearby, and doubly so from many miles away. Use these tips to feel more confident you are meeting your family member’s needs.
Understanding what tasks your parent needs assistance with is a necessity. Once you have a better idea of what they require, you can find ways to ensure those needs are met. Is lawn care too taxing? Or is snow removal too hard? Do they need more hands-on assistance, such as help showering?
Try to have an honest but kind discussion with your parent on your next visit home. Look for signs they need help around the house and offer to pitch in. Use the opportunity to begin a conversation about accepting a little help.
Once you have a good list, work on solutions for each task one-by-one. Your local agency on aging can be a good resource if you are struggling to find support. They usually maintain a list of transportation options, mobile meal programs, pharmacies that deliver, and other senior-friendly services.
Also discuss your parent’s wishes for future care. Are they interested in moving to a senior living community near their home? Would they consider moving to one close to you? These aren’t always easy conversations, but they are important.
When you live far away, having people who can keep an eye on your senior family member is crucial. Put together a list of trusted people who live near your family elder. Gather their contact information and make sure they have yours.
You could hire a geriatric care manager, also known as an aging life care professional, to help when you can’t be there. These professionals advocate on a senior’s behalf with everything from accompanying them on physician visits to supervising home care agencies. Visit the Aging Life Care Association to search their database for a professional near your loved one.
Long-distance caregivers may feel more comfortable seeing their senior loved one’s face to assess how they are really doing. Video chat services and apps, such as Skype and FaceTime, allow you to have a virtual face-to-face chat. Doing so can help you check your parent for symptoms like fever or changes in their weight or personal appearance.
Technology is available to assist with medication management, organizing health information, and keeping a calendar of appointments. Many even alert you if a dosage is missed or if it’s time for the senior to leave for an appointment.