Acting as the primary caregiver when you are located close to your loved one can already be overwhelming; however long-distance caregiving can present added challenges. Certain tips can help you navigate your role as a long-distance caregiver effectively.
Who is a long-distance caregiver?
Typically if you live more than an hour away from your loved one that needs assistance, you may be acting as a long-distance caregiver: Just because you are providing care from a distance there are many duties that can still be performed effectively.
What tasks can be performed by a long-distance caregiver?
As a long distance caregiver you may act in various capacities, and thankfully given current technology that is available, your role can be done both remotely and effectively.
- Managing Finances Remotely: This will ensure that items are paid on time and can alleviate stress, risk of excess spending and theft
- Obtain access to accounts electronically
- Set up online bill pay
- Have financial statements sent to your address rather than to your loved ones home
- Monitor Safety Remotely: Installing cameras in the home can also help you to monitor the safety of your loved one from a distance. There are cameras that can be easily installed as long as there is internet access in the home. Notifications and recordings will be sent to your smart phone for review. Sometime, you can also hear and speak to your loved one through the camera without the need for your loved one to press any buttons.
- Set up an emergency monitoring system: Emergency call pendants can alert local paramedics and fire departments in the event of a fall, fire or illness.
- When you do make an in-person visit with your loved one, be sure to visit a few of your loved one’s neighbors and exchange contact information. Explain your loved one’s status and ask if it would be ok to reach out to them from time to time or ask them to contact you if there is ever reason for concern
- Coordinate Care Remotely: Coordination of doctor appointments can be done long-distance as well.
- There may be primary care physicians that can perform in home health visits in the area, if your loved one is considered housebound
- You can also coordinate in home care or eldercare providers from a distance by searching for providers that assist older adults with transportation and other activities of daily living
- Keep track of important information such as Health Care Providers, Medications, Key Phone Numbers, Health Information / Medical histories, Directives and Power of Attorney documents electronically can also be a key role for a long-distance caregiver. This can allow you to keep track of changes in the status of the health of your loved one and allow you to share this information quickly if needed.
- Be sure to have a signed medical release with your loved one’s medical providers to ensure that you can communicate openly and manage your loved one’s care remotely.
TIP: You may consider placing a lock box on your loved one’s door so that in the event of an emergency the code to the lock box can be provided to paramedics, and/or neighbors. This can avoid the property being damaged from a forced entry.
- Arrange Social Activities: Perform an online search and coordinate adult day care service that can provide daily pick up and drop off services for socialization and outings.
- Some daycares even offer on-site clinics for medical care and monitoring
- Coordinate Cleaning and House Maintenance
- Coordinate regular house cleaning services
- Coordinate regular yard maintenance services and ask they text photos after each service is completed
- Install thermostats that can be controlled remotely. This will ensure that you can monitor the temperature of the home and adjust it as needed to keep your loved one safe and comfortable.
- Establish and schedule routine maintenance with a trusted heating and cooling company to ensure that air filters and furnaces are maintained as needed. Breakdowns of HVAC systems can be dangerous to your loved one due to excessive heat or cold
- Establish Good Communication with your Loved One
- Set up a simple phone system in the home that is easy to operate, with large buttons, some even offer picture settings, loud ringers and even visual cues.
- Schedule regular calls weekly or daily with your loved one. This can also be scheduled when you know a caregiver will be available to assist and perhaps help with a video call.
- Schedule regular in person visits both announced and unannounced to monitor third party service providers.
Develop a local team to assist you and keep you informed
If no other family members live nearby, developing a care team of local professionals and friends can help to ensure that your loved one remains safe and you stay informed.
- Consider hiring a local Geriatric Case manager (GCM) that can perform the following:
1. A needs assessment, outlining risks and needs related to activities of daily living
2. In-home assessment to identify environmental changes that may need to be made to make the home safer for aging in place
3. Ongoing case management to monitor hired caregivers, make wellness checks and hospital visits in the event of an emergency.
4. Transportation and help attending doctor appointments (They can provide a report to the long-distance caregiver.)
- Consider asking a trusted neighbor to keep a key to your loved one’s home so they can access the home in the event of an emergency.
- Hire an in-home care provider to assist with activities of daily living, transportation as well assist with helping you to speak with your loved one via cell phone calls or video chat, such as Skype or Facetime.
- Reach out to local churches or other local resources to see if there are any members of the congregation that may be able to make social visits from time to time to check on your loved one's well-being.
TIP: Most neighborhoods have online access to a website called NEXTDOOR that can be an excellent resource to search for and coordinate service providers that have been working in your loved one’s area.
How To Convince Elderly Parents To Move In With You
When having a conversation with your loved one,
- Start the conversation early. Try to engage in the conversation around care options early when you are speaking more in hypothetical terms. This is much less threatening than if you are already in crisis mode
- Understand and discuss why they may be intent on remaining in their own home however, be very clear that there are many “what if scenarios” that can come into fruition that may very well make it both legally unsafe and financially impossible for your loved one to remain in the home.
- Ask them to share any of their reservations regarding moving whether it be financial and/or emotional.
- Validate their concerns and respond with empathy.
- Reassure that you will continue to promote their independence while providing support in any identified areas of need.
- Reaffirm the fact that while they don’t have to make a decision immediately it is better to establish a care plan now in an effort to ensure that their goals and wishes for long term care are achieved. This will also ensure that more options are available to them.
Remember: Continue to take care of yourself, as well. As with any family caregiver, it is important to stay on top of your own health issues and seek emotional support where needed. No matter if the care recipient is your aging parents, your spouse, or another older person, caregiving responsibilities can often feel overwhelming. It helps to:
- Seek Respite Care
- Join a support group
- Practice good self care and personal care
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