If you live an hour away or across the country from an older loved one who needs care, you may be facing the complexities of long-distance caregiving. You want to help with the care of your senior relative or friend as much as you can, but the miles between the both of you pose a challenge to you staying accurately informed and the care recipient obtaining reliable help.
Where do I start with long-distance caregiving?
First, talk with your care recipient and any primary caregiver about how you can be of most help. Even though you cannot readily be there in person, your contribution as a long-distance caregiver is still vital. You can coordinate many of the following care needs remotely via phone or email:
Checklist of Care Needs
- Evaluate the safety of the home environment.
- Maintain the home and property.
- Form a local care team of family, friends and neighbors.
- Keep the care team updated and informed.
- Coordinate with medical providers.
- Secure durable medical equipment.
- Research and hire in-home professional caregivers.
- Oversee money management and bill paying.
- Navigate health insurance benefits and claims.
- Create a plan in case of emergency.
- Locate the best hospital and assisted living and/or skilled care facility.
Who should be on the care team?
In addition to medical professionals in your loved one’s circle of care providers, broaden this network to include other family members, friends, neighbors, community service volunteers and others who can support your senior. Maybe a neighbor could put out the trash or a teenager from church could mow the lawn. To oversee the care needs and the care team, consider appointing a local care manager among family and friends or hiring a professional geriatric care manager or eldercare navigator/coordinator. Stay in regular communication with the local team via group emails or social video chats such as FaceTime or Skype. And be sure all care team members know how to reach you any time of day or night.
What about obtaining access to care information?
Ask whether your loved one can sign the appropriate forms to allow you or another trusted family member permission to receive information from doctors, medical facilities, health insurance companies, financial institutions, etc. Be sure your loved one designates a durable power of attorney to step in for medical, financial and legal decisions if your loved one becomes unable to make these crucial decisions.
What resources are available for long-distance caregivers?
Fortunately, caregivers from afar and locally can connect with a number of care resources for an aging family member. Free community services and programs offer information and care assistance such as care management, nutrition services, technology training and legal assistance. These helpful public, nonprofit and private resources include:
- Local Area Agencies on Aging
- Local senior centers and adult day care centers
- Eldercare Locator, https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx, 1-800-677-1116
- National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov, 1-800-222-2225
- Family Caregiver Alliance, https://www.caregiver.org/, 1-800-445-8106
As a caregiver at a distance, visit your loved one as often as possible and continue to stay connected with the care team. Together, you can coordinate reliable, affordable care for your elderly loved one, which can give you peace of mind across the miles.
What tips and encouragement can you share for long-distance caregivers?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.