Long distance caregivers face different challenges than those who live close to their senior loved ones, and it’s a set of challenges an increasing number of people in this country are taking on.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated 15% of family caregivers provide care long distance. That means 5 to 7 million caregivers are struggling to keep a loved one safe and healthy despite not living nearby.
Staying organized and planning ahead are just a few of their struggles.
4 Survival Tips for the Virtual Caregiver
We’ve pulled together a few tips you can use to feel more confident in your ability to care for your far away family member.
1. Organize medical information: One of the biggest challenges caregivers face is staying organized. On your next visit home, make time to gather your loved one’s important information all in one place and organize it. Identify missing documents, such as their medication list or living will, and make arrangements to obtain copies from their attorney or physician.
It’s also helpful to explore technology platforms that can make it easier for you to stay on top of their paperwork long distance. If, for example, a professional caregiver takes them to physician appointments when you aren’t in town, find a platform that allows them to add notes from the doctor visit so that you can review them too. MyMedical and CareZone are two that receive positive reviews.
2. Build a local network: It can be frightening to receive a call that a senior loved one has experienced a fall or had a health emergency when you live far away. One necessity for long distance caregivers is a strong network of local people they can count on. It might help to hire an elder care manager who can oversee all of the caregivers and helpers involved in your family member’s life. They can check to make sure the lawn service is doing a good job, for example, or that the aide who helps with meal planning is showing up on time.
It’s also important to explore local senior living communities that offer short-term respite stays. If your loved one has an emergency that requires a caregiver to be nearby around the clock until you can get there, respite can provide a solution.
Call your local law enforcement’s non-emergency line. Ask if they offer any programs to check in on seniors. A surprising number provide daily phone check-ins that are followed up with an in-person well-being check if it is needed.
Finally, if you don’t already know your loved one’s neighbors, stop by, introduce yourself, and leave them your contact information.
3. Explore tech solutions: Fortunately for today’s long distance caregivers, technology is available to help with many challenges.
Sometimes a caregiver just wants to be able to see their loved one’s face to assess how well they are doing. Video chat services like Skype and Facetime are senior-friendly ways of talking “face-to-face” across the miles.
There are medication management solutions that do everything from flash a light at dosage time to alert a contact person if a senior misses a dosage. Whole house security systems that use discretely placed sensors allow far away caregivers to monitor a loved one’s safety. These systems can even notify a contact person if a window or door is opened overnight.
4. Online solutions: Another way to help long distance is by taking advantage of online financial solutions. You can probably manage the majority of your senior loved one’s bill paying online from your laptop at home. It can be as simple as having your loved one add you to their bank account so you can set up online bill pay. Talk with them and their financial institution on your next visit to their home.
Tour Five Star Senior Living
With over 270 senior living communities in 30 states across the country, there’s probably a Five Star Senior Living community near your loved one. We extend an open invitation to you to tour and ask questions on your family member’s behalf. Call us today to schedule a time!