4 Long Distance Caregiving Tips
Millions of Americans care for an aging loved one from a distance, with an average distance of 450 miles and 7 hours of travel time one way. Caregiving from a distance certainly creates additional complexities and challenges, but it does not mean you can’t help as a caregiver.
Here are some tips to care for a loved one, even though you may not live in the same neighborhood, or even the same state as them:
- Understand your role. Take some time and think of the role you want to play in your loved one’s life. Thanks to technology and online banking, a long distance caregiver can help pay bills and keep track of a loved one’s finances. You can also help keep track of health issues, order medicine or work as the main point of contact with your parent’s health care professionals. Managing health benefits can get confusing, luckily working with the insurance company or Medicare can often be done from anywhere. Additionally, part of your role could include being a point of contact for friends and family. You can share information via text message, email or even a private Facebook group. You can also set a schedule for friends and family to visit your mother or father.
- Use technology to communicate, consistently. Technology has made it easier than ever for long distance caregiving. It is important to schedule consistent check ins with your loved one to see how they are feeling, learn about any needs they have (groceries, household items, etc.) or any health concerns. You have many options to connect: by phone, email, instant messages, or video chat. Video chat has many advantages as it allows your loved one to see a friendly face and is more personal than a phone call. Getting to see your loved one also gives you an idea of how they’re looking. If you would like to communicate with video chat via Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts, make sure your loved one knows how it works. There are plenty of tutorials online that simplify the process.
- Be ready for an emergency. Although technology can help bridge the gap, make sure you have a point person who lives near your loved one in case of emergency. This could be a sibling, friend, family member or even a neighbor. Make sure this is a person you and your parent both trust. In case of an emergency, this individual can look out for your loved one and help out until you can arrive. It is also important for you to have emergency phone numbers, medical records and a plan of action ready in case of any emergency.
- Determine a care plan for your loved one. Your role as a long distance caregiver may include finding a primary caregiver, live-in nurse or moving your loved one into an assisted living community. This may be the best course of action if your loved one’s health or mobility is declining and you feel they need 24/7 care. This provides a big advantage as you can communicate with the caregiver on a consistent basis.
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