Being a caregiver from afar brings its own challenges, and if you are one of the 15% of family caregivers who live more than an hour away from your relative, you have probably asked yourself:
How are they really managing on a day-to-day basis?
What aren’t they telling me?
Are they receiving the level of care that they need?
Will I be able to get to them and assist if there is a crisis?
Caregiving is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but these recommendations can assist you in your role as a long-distance caregiver.
Be Prepared and Proactive
This often is easier said than done. Your loved one may consider your desire to be more involved in their life as a threat to their independence or that you consider them unable to manage their affairs. Keep this in mind if they are reluctant to share information with you.
Maintain frequent and regular communication with your loved one. Being an active part of their life will make it easier for you to step in when needed or for them to ask for assistance.
Identify tasks that you can accomplish from a distance such as managing medical appointments, online shopping or bill paying.
Request to be listed as a contact with their healthcare and service providers.
Ask whether you can participate in their medical care. Can you go to an appointment with them when you visit or participate in a telehealth visit?
Collect the contact information of caregivers, neighbors and close friends so you know who to contact in case of an emergency.
Identify someone who can serve as your local contact and alert you to concerns. This could be another family member, neighbor, friend or a professional like a caregiver or geriatric care manager.
Establish regular communication through emails or scheduled calls with others involved in their care so that everyone is on the same page.
Look into your workplace leave policies to learn what benefits you are eligible for, as well as your ability to work remotely.
Investigate technology that can assist with keeping your loved one safe and you informed. Ask for their permission to purchase smart home devices such as locks, doorbells or pill dispensers and personal safety devices like medical alerts or GPS trackers.
When You Visit
Create a visit schedule and plan in advance with your loved one so that you can all make the most of your visit.
Have a strategy for what you want to accomplish during your visit and be realistic.
Schedule your visit to coincide with an appointment or to meet with professionals involved in your loved one's care to discuss any concerns.
Find something useful to assist with while you are there such as preparing and freezing meals or completing home maintenance.
Walk through the home and conduct your own assessment to identify areas where they may need assistance. Is the refrigerator properly stocked? Are the home and yard adequately maintained? Is laundry being washed regularly?
Look for signs of abuse such as financial irregularities or changes or unexplained injuries. Ask about people who have recently become involved in their lives.
Do something enjoyable together. It can be easy to get caught up in the tasks of caregiving and forget to spend time with your loved one doing something that brings pleasure or joy.
Being a family caregiver, whether local or long-distance, can be challenging. Contact us at Mellie to learn more about how we support family caregivers and for additional resources, such as our caregiver preparation checklist.