Long-distance caregiving is the act of providing some sort of help from someone that lives in a home far away from you. It could be a family member or friend. They may need a lot of care or a little. And, that distance could be an hour or four thousand miles.
Statistically speaking, most people will provide caregiving at some point in their lives. For many, it is from far way.
Just as every person is different, so are their situations and needs. If you are helping someone who lives a distance from you make or keep track of appointments, hiring in-home care or any other type of work that helps them get their needs met, you’re a long-distance caregiver.
Below is some information and long distance caregiving tips that can help you increase your effectiveness and make sure they are taken care of.
What is long-distance caregiving?
There are many things that can be part of long-distance caregiving. If you are looking for ways to help elderly parents or other loved ones, here are some of the tasks you might assist with:
- Arranging for medical or non-medical care.
- Coordinating appointments.
- Talking with their local doctors or other medical professionals.
- Helping them find appropriate housing, such as assisted living or apartments.
- Making arrangements in case there is an emergency.
- Coordinating a home assessment to ensure their home is safe and meets their needs.
- Arranging for transportation.
- Working with insurance companies, researching where they can get benefits.
- Helping elderly parents downsize.
- Communicating with family and friends.
- Help paying bills or managing money
If you’re new to long long-distance caregiving
It very often happens that a person is thrust into a caregiving role quickly. If you are one of the millions of long distance caregivers that is taking care of parents or other loved ones, sometimes it is difficult to know what to do first.
When this happens, you have to understand that as difficult as it is for you, it can be even more difficult for the person that needs your help. In many cases, they may refuse your help or say they don’t need anything.
Just approach the situation gently, at first. Let them know you only want what is best for them. However, if you feel you have to step in, don’t be afraid to take the leadership role. Often times, this is exactly what the person will need.
One of the first things you will want to do is get an understanding of what their current situation and needs are. As well as, discover what is already being provided for them. Become familiar with any local services or organizations they are already being served by. (You also can check out the handbook for long distance caregivers by the Family Caregiver’s Alliance.)
Then, you’ll want to learn about the particulars of their situation. In an article from the AARP, this should include items, such as:
- Their medical records.
- Information about past and current health issues.
- Medication list.
- Doctor names & numbers.
- Pharmacy and number.
- All insurance policies they hold.
- List of utilities and numbers.
- Assets and income.
- Bank or other financial accounts.
- Legal documents.
- Social security numbers.
Being able to provide long-distance caregiving to your loved one, or caring for aging parents from a distance, will often depend on your ability to compile and manage this information about them and their situation. Your best choice is to work with someone who can show you what you need to have, then help you make arrangements to get what you will need.
After that, you will want to find out what other services are available locally that can help keep them safe, healthy and happy. You can visit the National Eldercare Locator to find local agencies.
Other action items
- Learn as much as you can about their past and current health.
- Either visit yourself or have someone visit with them regularly to get an idea of how they are doing.
- Spend some time learning about caregiving. There are many resources online, as well as local support groups that can help you learn more.
- Work with a local professional to create a care plan for aging parents.
Prepare to visit
The best option is going to be you visiting the person if you are at all able to. This ‘boots on the ground’ approach is going to help you understand their current situation better and discover what they need help with immediately. Things you can look for during your visit, include:
- Is their home safe?
- Do they seem happy? Withdrawn? Lonely? Anxious?
- Do they have enough food?
- Are they taking medications properly?
- Are they going to doctor’s appointments?
- Are there stairs, a bathtub or other tripping hazards inside or outside of the home?
- Can their home be modified to make it safer and easier for them?
- Do they have opportunities for social interaction?
- Are bills and paperwork piling up?
- Are they able to take care of their personal care, such as bathing, dressing, eating, etc.?
- Are they able to keep their home clean?
- Are they still driving? If so, should they be?
Learning these things first-hand is best. However, if you are unable to, you can find a local professional to help you.
Know what you’re capable of doing
It will be very beneficial for you to think about your abilities and the time you have available to help your loved one. Including, an understanding of the areas of strengths and skills. When you understand your strengths (or what may not be a strength), it will help you decide when you should call someone in to lend a hand.
When you think about these things, understand that there is a high level of communication that will need to happen. If you don’t have time to be on the phone a lot, or that conveying information in an organized way over the phone isn’t a strength, then maybe you should get some assistance.
Or, if you aren’t strong in organizational skills, managing checkbooks or other tasks needed to maintain someone’s life, you might want help in those areas.
Along those lines, you also need to be objective about your own situation. Can you afford to travel to visit your loved one regularly? How prepared are you to be your loved one’s caretaker, since the role is now reversed? Do you have the freedom to spend quite a bit of time managing their life and care?
These and other considerations can help you determine if or how much assistance you’ll from someone local to your loved one.