Can Long Distance Caregiving Really Work?

Can Long Distance Caregiving Really Work?
In today’s highly mobile society, families are often separated by many miles. An aging parent may live in the city or town they’ve called home for years, while adult children have established a family or career in another area of the country.

When the family elder is active and healthy, it’s a scenario that works for both. Loved ones can spend vacations together and keep in touch via phone calls, emails, and even through social media. As a senior loved one begins to need more help, however, the distance can seem even greater.

When you are caring for a loved one who lives an hour or more away, you are what the National Institute on Aging calls a long-distance caregiver. That term simply means that you are trying to manage the tasks of caregiving, such as paying bills, scheduling doctors’ appointments, or arranging transportation, from far away.

If your family is struggling to manage caregiving duties long distance, these tips may be useful.

5 Tips for Long Distance Caregivers

1. Establish a list of needs

Getting family members who are involved in the senior’s care to sit down with their aging relative is a good place to start. Ask your loved one to be honest with you about what they need. Make a list of those tasks as you go.

Understand that your parent or senior relative may not want to be a burden. When seniors know how busy their loved ones are, they are more likely to downplay their needs. This is why it’s essential to look for signs around the home that indicate the senior requires more assistance.

Recognizing the Signs an Elderly Loved One Needs Help can assist you in identifying some of the most common warning signs. Be sure these items are added to your list so they can be discussed with your family member.

2. Work on a plan of care

When you feel like your list is complete, start dividing tasks up among family members. For those items that need to be handled locally, you might need to turn to a local senior-care provider.

Families may also need to create a list of transportation options. Ride share services, public transportation, and volunteer driver programs for seniors are a few to explore.

Though this part of the conversation can be uncomfortable, it is also important to discuss the senior’s wishes for the future. Will they be receptive to the idea of moving to a local assisted living community when their need for personal care and managing daily tasks increases? Or do they want to move closer to you?

3. Investigate nearby senior care options

Though your senior loved one might not require outside assistance now, the best time to plan is before an emergency occurs. Investigating home care agencies or deciding which assisted living community is the best fit isn’t a decision you want to rush. The local agency on aging may help you figure out where to start your search.

Taking this step now has the added benefit of helping you prepare for an emergency. While no one wants to think the worst, if your loved one is injured in a fall or becomes ill, knowing more about the senior care providers near their home will give you peace of mind.

4. Create a local support network

It’s also a good idea to put together a list of people you trust who live near your family elder. Friends, neighbors, or a pastor can all be your eyes and ears when you live far away.

You might also want to consider hiring a geriatric care manager, also known as an aging life care expert. These professionals are familiar with local senior care options, as well as issues that impact older adults. Visit the Aging Life Care Association to search their database to find a care expert near your loved one.

5. Use technology to stay connected

Long distance caregivers may feel more comfortable if they can see their senior loved one’s face and assess how they are really doing. When you can’t be there in person, video chat services and apps can allow for face-to-face interaction. Skype and Facetime are two popular and easy-to-use platforms.

Technology can also assist with medication management, keeping health information organized, and providing reminders prior to appointments. Spending a little time online might allow you to connect with technology tools to help.

Finally, plan to reassess your senior loved one’s situation often. Things can change quickly and it’s best to be prepared.

Tour a Five Star Senior Living Community Today

At Five Star Senior Living, we understand the unique challenges long-distance caregivers face. That’s why we extend an invitation to tour a Five Star community—with or without your senior loved one—and learn more about our programs and services. You can even stay for lunch!