What would you do if your aging parents needed care, but you lived hundreds of kilometres away? It may seem like an impossible task, but for many caregivers, it’s a reality that they need to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s estimated that 15% of caregivers live an hour or more away from their loved one.
Long-distance caregiving comes with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles. It can be difficult to handle, but with these essential tips, it’s possible to be a great caregiver even without living close by.
Whether the care receiver is living in an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or simply aging in place, it will take a team of people to look after them. Building good relationships with the other care providers is crucial in staying informed on the care receiver’s current condition and needs. It’s also important when dividing up tasks and duties among the caregiving team to ensure everything gets done.
If the care receiver is aging in place, the caregiver should connect with their friends, neighbours, or other relatives that live close by, as these are the people that will likely check on them most often. If the care receiver is in an assisted living facility or nursing home, the caregiver should become familiar with staff members such as administrators, care employees, and nurses.
Building a close relationship with doctors and medical staff is also crucial. Long-distance caregivers will need to ensure they stay in the loop on their loved one’s medical issues.
Technology is a great way for long-distance caregivers to stay involved with their loved one’s care. There are a variety of tools and services which can be used to keep in touch with the care receiver and other caregivers. Group chat apps can be used for coordination and updates, and video chat services like Skype can be used to organize online meetings or attend doctor’s appointments virtually.
Technology specifically focused on senior care can also be very useful for long-distance caregivers, especially when their loved one still lives at home. Medication tracking devices like MedMinder can be used to ensure that medication is taken on time, and it will notify caregivers if their loved one forgets to do so. Other devices like sensors or cameras can be set up and monitored remotely to ensure that the care receiver is safe and secure.
Long-distance caregivers may feel that they’re not as involved as they should be with their loved one’s care because they’re far away. However, there are a variety of helpful jobs that can be done remotely.
One idea is to act as an organizer. This can involve compiling and organizing all relevant medical, legal, and financial documents associated with the care receiver. It can also involve preparing for medical emergencies by having a plan of action if one occurs and having all the necessary documentation prepared in advance. Another idea is to assist with taking care of finances, making sure bills and debts are paid on time, and keeping accurate accounting records on all care expenditures.
Long-distance caregivers can also help out with medical issues. They can schedule doctor’s appointments, keep track of insurance information, and make a list of any medications being taken. Additionally, they can do research on any conditions or diseases that their loved one has.
As seniors age, their ability to perform certain tasks diminishes. For seniors who are aging in place, it’s important for caregivers to ensure that their home is safe and as risk-free as possible.
Long-distance caregivers should regularly keep in contact with their caregiving team and stay updated on any changes that they notice. Some signs that may indicate strength or mobility changes include an increase of dust and grime in the house, weight loss, spills in the floors and rugs, and neglect for personal hygiene.
If these changing needs are significant, adjustments to the living situation should be made. These can include home modifications to make conditions safer or downsizing to a smaller house which is easier to get around. In more serious circumstances, hiring a live-in nurse or a move to an assisted living facility or nursing home may be the best course of action.
When working hard to provide care from a distance, caregivers should make sure not to forget to check in with their loved one. Setting up a time every day or week to talk is a great way to keep in touch and provide emotional support.
Phone calls are great, but video calls can be beneficial as well. The “face-to-face” aspect of video services like Skype or Facetime can help prevent the loneliness and isolation that’s all too common in seniors. Purchasing a laptop or tablet for the loved one can be a great way to keep them connected to friends and relatives.
Visits are also important, but most long-distance caregivers can’t visit often. When they can, it’s important that caregivers make the most of the time they have. While part of the visit should be spent ensuring conditions are safe, caregivers should also make sure they simply spend some quality family time with their loved one. It goes a long way.
Senior care is already stressful, and having to be a caregiver from far away can make things even more difficult. Some long-distance caregivers are able to rely on another primary caregiver who lives closer, but many are forced to be the primary caregiver themselves. It may seem daunting, but with a great team, good communication, and a solid plan, caregivers can provide amazing support even at a distance.
Wendy studies English Language and Literature at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.
Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.
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