UPDATED AS OF FEB. 2020
According to AARP in 2019, “more than 1 in 10 family caregivers live at least an hour away from their aging or ailing family member,” and many may be even further. If you’re facing the possibility of becoming a long-distance caregiver, you may wonder what you can do to keep distance from standing in the way of helping.
At Senior Home Companions, we strive to provide the best care that we can, but we know that we can’t take the place of a loving relative. We would be proud to come alongside your family in caring for your aging loved ones so that we can help you find ways to play an active role, whether you’re across town or across the country.
Here are a few long-distance caregiving tips:
- To start, if there’s another primary caregiver living with or near your loved one, offer her emotional support—in big doses. Make time to give the primary caregiver a break—plan times to go stay with your loved one so the primary caregiver can have a vacation. Respite care from a facility like SHC can also give primary caregivers some time off.
- Manage your loved one’s medical bills or records, which is much simpler with automated bill pay and other current technology. It can help to put all vital information (contact numbers, financial info, medical instructions, etc.) in one place, such as a secure online document.
- Manage services your loved one may need—arranging for in-home help or care, for instance, and following up to make sure there aren’t problems. Watch for signs that your aging loved one may need more help, such as withdrawal from activities or decreased care of their home or self.
- Have regular family meetings. Technology has a way of nearly eliminating the miles, thanks to video chatting apps like Facetime and Skype. Discuss concerns and goals; divide duties.
- Try to understand what your loved one’s going through. Learn as much as you can about the illness, condition or issues your loved one is dealing with so you can prevent possible problems, understand how to manage the condition and be better prepared for what may be ahead. This information can also be recorded in your secure online document when sharing duties between caregivers.
- Plan for emergencies. Unexpected trips to be with your loved one may come up that will require time and money. If necessary, talk to your employer about the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Most important, keep in touch, regularly and often. Whether it’s texting, phone calls, videos, emails or good old-fashioned snail mail, you can make the miles disappear by letting your loved one know you’re thinking about her.
You can find even more tips and in-depth information about long-distance caregiving from the National Institute on Aging, the Mayo Clinic, or you can reach out to Senior Home Companions and our Family Matters service. We can come alongside you and your family members to help you explore the topics that are difficult to approach, such as living arrangements, financial issues and legal relationships.