Helpful Tips for the Long-Distance Caregiver
Is living far away from the person you care for causing you guilt? It’s normal to have feelings of guilt when you don’t live close to the person you’re caring for. If you live more than one hour away from your loved one, you’re considered a long-distance caregiver.
“As caregivers, guilt is our constant companion,” says Amy Goyer, author of the book Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. “When you’re a long-distance caregiver, it’s even more so.” But there are things you can do to make sure you’re providing the best possible care from a distance. Research, planning and in-community resources are key.
Here are some tips for making it work.
Get Informed and Stay Up To Date
Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s health and daily routine. It’s important to maintain an accurate and current picture of their health and abilities.
- If your loved one has any ongoing health conditions, learn how they affect your loved one’s daily life, what medications and doctor visits are required, etc. If you are their health care power of attorney (or proxy), you will have access to detailed information from their health care providers. If not, you will need to rely on updates from your loved one or whomever is the health care power of attorney.
- Make a list of names and contact information that includes family members, friends, neighbors and anyone else who sees your loved one regularly. Ask everyone’s permission to share the list with the others.
- Stay in regular contact with the people on the list. You may hear from them about sudden changes in your loved one’s appearance, for example, which might be a cause of concern. A neighbor might let you know that your loved one’s home needs maintenance or that they haven’t seen your loved one outside in a while.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve assessed your loved one’s situation and needs, it’s time to determine what your role—and the role of others—can and should be.
- If someone else is taking the caregiving lead, find ways you can help that work for you. You might be able to manage finances online, for example, or research helpful resources in your loved one’s community.
- If you are the primary caregiver, find out if any relatives, neighbors or friends are willing and able to help. Set up a plan or calendar and share it with everyone involved.
- Research organizations in your loved one’s community that might offer support such as free or low-cost meal delivery programs, free transportation services or even volunteer visitors. Also look into local in-home care providers and care homes, so you have information on those options handy if and when it’s needed.
Hire Professional Help
Now that you’ve got your plan and research in place, you’re well prepared should you need to hire in-home help. An important side benefit of working with in-home professionals is that they can serve as your long-distance “eyes and ears”—especially if an emergency happens.
- You can hire in-home caregivers who will do things like laundry and light housekeeping, get your loved one to their doctor appointments, cook meals, or a variety of other tasks.
- Home care aides can also make companionship visits, which can have a big impact on your loved one’s mental health.
- Geriatric care managers can help by coordinating the work of financial and legal advisers, elder law attorneys, community services and more.
Decide How Technology Can Help
Your loved one may already be comfortable with smartphones or video chats, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic-related quarantines. If not, see if they’re open to learning. There are many other options available to help you track their well-being.
- For personal safety, look into smartwatches (with apps that can detect falls, track heart rate and rhythm, and more) and medical alert devices.
- Security cameras set up outside the home can give you peace of mind about visitors. Inside cameras may seem intrusive and must be discussed with your loved one. If they agree, consider using one in a common area such as the kitchen or living room.
- Electronic medication managers provide alerts and dispense pills.
Assure Your Loved One That They Are the Decision-Maker
In whatever decisions you make about caring for your loved one from a distance, always remember they still have free will. Decisions about how and where they live are theirs to make, unless, of course, they are incapacitated.
Resources From Right at Home
Right at Home offers a FREE RightConversations Guide that helps families have meaningful conversations about caring for an aging loved one. The guide offers tips on developing a plan that ensures the care recipient has a voice and the entire family has a positive experience. The guide also contains worksheets to help families record the information needed to ensure continuation of care over time.
Right at Home also can provide respite care services to alleviate some of the stress family caregivers experience and provide a much-needed break. Our trained and screened professional caregivers can provide services ranging from nutritious meal preparation and light housekeeping to help with hygiene and dressing. Use our office locator to find the nearest office and ask about a FREE in-home consultation.
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