There is no substitute for proximity in caregiving. Being a caregiver to provide emotional, physical, and even financial support is a tremendous responsibility – and burden. Trying to do it from a distance makes it even harder. For many, there is no choice.
As a long-distance caregiver, you may not be able to provide care in the same manner or to the same effect as someone literally at the side of a senior loved one, but there are many other things you can do to make a significant impact. Working and preforming tasks remotely I all facets of our lives has become much less difficult recently. That includes some of the tasks required in care plans for seniors. Things like helping with finances and paying bills, hiring an in-home caregiver, researching future options such as assisted living, providing emotional support and serving as an information coordinator can all be done to great effect from a distance.
Here are a few things to think about when getting started as a long-distance caregiver:
1. Is There a Primary Caregiver Locally?
When starting as a long-distance caregiver, it might be overwhelming or confusing trying to figure out what needs to be done. If there is a primary caregiver local to the senior, listen to them. They are the ‘boots on the ground’, with eyes on the situation, it’s wise to take their lead. Ask the primary caregiver what you can do to help. You must work in tandem. If possible, the care recipient should also tell the long-distance caregiver about their needs. Do not leave the senior out of the care planning. It is their right to be an active participant in their own care.
2. Learn Everything Possible About Your Loved One’s Situation
Find out as much as possible about your loved one. Do they have any illnesses or current medical conditions that need continued attention? Who are their healthcare providers? Where do they go for treatments, social services, etc.? Find out the relevant contact information of their friends, doctors, lawyers and any other important people in their lives. Compile this information and create a resource.
In addition to health issues, find out what other needs they have. Try to understand the whole picture. What does life look like? How are shopping and meals being handled? Do they have any hobbies and interests they need supplies for, or access to? How are they getting socialization? It’s an essential part of emotional and cognitive health. Do they require transportation services?
Putting all their pertinent information in one place will benefit all caregivers involved.
3. Plan Ahead
As a long-distance caregiver, you may not be able to spend a lot of time with your loved one. As such, planning what you need to take care of ahead of when you are able to be with them can allow for more personal time together when you are visiting. Having a checklist of the tasks you need to complete while physically present with them, such as checking in with their primary caregiver, physician and others who help with their care, will help make certain nothing is missed.
Though these tasks are important, it’s also important to plan quality time with your senior loved one. Perhaps watch a movie together, go for a drive, or take part in an activity that they enjoy. Many times, adult children surrender the role of son or daughter to that of being a caregiver. Do your best to avoid that. Balancing your role as caregiver with that of son or daughter can be challenging but it is critical for both your loved one and yourself.
4. Stay Connected
As a long-distance caregiver, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that is happening in your loved one’s day-to-day life. It’s important to stay in touch with your senior and their local caregiver. In the absence of an in-home caregiver, find someone who lives near your loved one that can give you frequent updates.
If your loved one is currently living in an assisted living community, provide the community with a way to easily get in touch with you, such as a phone number or email address and develop a personal relationship with staff at the community. That’s another relationship you need to balance; between advocate for your loved one, and collaborator with members of their care team. Whether a caregiver is local or at a distance the responsibility to provide the emotional and physical support – and everything else remains the same. Distance is simply a complicating factor that needs to be taken into consideration when figuring out how to fulfill those responsibilities. If you are a long-distance caregiver and have more questions about how to best help your loved one, reach out to Oasis Senior Advisors at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or fill out this online form.