There is no easy way to be a long distance caregiver, by its very nature it is fraught with worry. However, sometimes life and work provide no other option but to live a distance from your loved one. Fortunately, there are support systems available to help you and the senior you love. Here are the three best options for long distance caregiving.
1. Take advantage of in-home caregiver services. Responsible, certified agencies provide trained in-home caregivers who provide a wide range of services depending upon the specific needs of your loved one. Caregivers can provide light housekeeping and transportation, companion services and healthy meals. Specialty trained caregivers can provide care for seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, or for those recovering from stroke or other debilitating health conditions. These caregivers provide hourly or 24/7 care for your loved one. They will communicate regularly with you and your loved one’s providers, depending upon your preferences. These services provide an essential extension of care for long-distance caregivers, and with that comes peace of mind.
2. Set up a robust network of support and care. If you live at a distance, you will need a network of friends, relatives and professionals who are nearby and can provide services to your loved one. Establish a schedule of people who will check in on him or her. Include friends, neighbors, relatives and people from your loved one’s place of worship. Call the local senior center and ask if they have services that will provide visitors.
Depending upon your loved one’s health, you may be able to take advantage of visiting nurse and other clinical support services. Talk with your loved one’s primary care physician and ask about services that you may be able to access. Then ask if a case manager is available to help you with the situation. Your loved one may qualify for many support services that only someone in the system will know about.
While this system provides face-to-face care, you can provide emotional support to your loved one. Stay in contact with him or her by phone and e-mail. Send cards and funny pictures. Together, you will be able to create a close, reassuring community for your loved one.
3. Structure care and use your strengths. One of the best options for long distance caregiving is to structure the care and all the tasks required. Assess your strengths and use them to the benefit of your loved one. This will also reduce your frustration and give you a feeling of increased control over the situation. Here are some ways to assess your strengths, as suggested by the National Institute on Aging:
- Are you good at finding information, keeping people up-to-date on changing conditions, and offering cheer, whether on the phone or with a computer?
- Are you good at supervising and leading others?
- Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and interpreting what they say to others?
- Is your strongest suit doing the numbers—paying bills, keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing insurance policies and reimbursement reports?
- Are you the one in the family who can fix anything, while no one else knows the difference between pliers and a wrench?
Use these strengths to identify what you can reasonably do to support your loved one from a distance and what tasks need support from others. Once you have identified these, you will be able to gauge what you can do emotionally and physically to care for your loved one. There are options for long-distance caregiving, and a realistic inventory of your strengths will help you to find the best ones. If all else fails there are a number of technologies to support you in your long-distance caregiving.