Long-distance caregiving has now become part of the “new normal.” It’s estimated that anywhere between 10 million-14 million people care for a loved one from a distance. This number has increased over the past several years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and families having had to socially distance and limit visits for the safety of their loved ones.
For many caregivers, this has brought on feelings of frustration and sometimes guilt. You may have been unable to assist with doctor’s appointments, medication management, or just day-to-day care.
To help make long-distance caregiving easier for you, here are some tips and hacks to maintain your loved one’s quality of life:
Tip 1: Set Up Meetings
The best place to start is making sure family and friends all understand your loved one’s needs. If possible, hold this meeting in person. If not, schedule a long-distance meeting via Zoom or FaceTime.
Tip 2: Gather Necessary Documentation
First and foremost, you should have access to your loved one’s medical records, particularly if they are living with a chronic condition like arthritis or dementia. This information should include physicians’ names and contact information, a list of all the medications, health insurance information, and a list of any upcoming medical appointments or procedures they have scheduled.
Having financial paperwork collected and organized will also make it easier to remember monthly bills and other financial responsibilities. Have your name added to bank accounts, if necessary, so you can continue paying the bills if your loved suffers an accident.
Other important documents you’ll need are their birth certificate, social security card, advance directives, and healthcare power of attorney, if applicable.
Tip 3: Study Up
If you’re living a long distance away, perhaps hundreds of miles, it’s unlikely that you can attend all of your loved one’s doctor’s appointments in person. This makes it essential that you do your homework on their diagnosis to be knowledgeable about the treatment they’re receiving and what their caregiving needs are. You’ll also be able to ask informed questions and remain involved in your loved one’s care. You can find most of the educational resources you need online.
Tip 4: Enlist Local Help for Your Loved One
Since you’re limited by distance in how you can care for your senior, it’s critical that you have a team of family, friends, or community members. This helps you to have an extension on the ground locally.
Your loved one is going to need help with:
- Grocery shopping
- Trips to healthcare providers
- Running errands, like banking or going to the post office
- Landscaping and maintenance
- And more
If you can’t enlist local help, local caregiving agencies like Seniors Prefer Homecare can provide you with all the assistance you need for your loved one to remain at home and age in place.
Tip 5: Stay in Touch
It will help your loved one stave off feelings of isolation and loneliness by keeping regular contact with them. It will also help you feel more at ease when you keep tabs on everything that is going on.
For mobile seniors who can take care of themselves, stay in touch by calling them several times per week. For family members living with dementia or who are bedridden or wheel-chair bound, you may need to have friends, family, or professional caregivers check in on them regularly. Talk with the caregiver after they visit about medication, appetite, and any other changes that might cause concern. Then, use that information to make necessary adjustments in your long-distance caregiving.