Long-Distance Caregiving

Marianne was just sitting down to dinner with her husband and daughter when she got the call – her mother’s neighbor was frantic, explaining that her mother had just fallen and was being rushed to the hospital. Marianne, living over 500 miles away, could do very little but gather information and try to determine how serious the situation was.
Today’s highly mobile society has created families who live far apart from each other. This can create all sorts of challenges when a crisis occurs. Here are some steps to help long-distance caregivers be prepared and understand a loved one’s needs to help ensure that, in the event of a crisis, there’s someone to provide assistance.
Assess your loved one’s situation before an emergency arises
The first step to being an effective caregiver is to be well-informed. During your next visit, pay attention to your loved ones’ health condition, the condition of their home, their appearance and grooming. Is mail piled up on the table? Have bills been paid? Is the refrigerator well-stocked? If you have concerns, speak with your loved one’s healthcare provider, financial advisor and other professionals. Talk to friends and neighbors—and, most important, talk to your loved one. Ask lots of questions. Make notes to refer to later. We discuss how to have a conversation with your loved one in this post.
Create a Plan of Action
Once you’ve assessed your loved one’s situation and needs, it’s time to determine what your role – and the role of others – can and should be. Make sure the right people are involved in the plan – other family members, and professionals who can offer input. Remember that unless your loved one is completely incapacitated, he or she must be centrally involved in developing the plan. You are trying to help Mom or Dad take control of their life, not control it for them. Your goal is to support your family member’s maximum level of independence, self-esteem and dignity.
Enlist the help of a professional
When you don’t live nearby, hiring a professional caregiver makes sense and is a great way to help ensure your loved ones are being properly taken care of. A good place to start is with a ProperCare care manager, who can assess your loved one’s needs, develop a customized Plan of Care, and serve as an advocate during medical appointments. A care manager serves as a single point of contact for becoming aware about all issues of your loved one’s well-being, whether it’s a medical condition, financial challenges, or legal issues.
Keep in touch
Of course, face-to-face visits are the best way to monitor a loved one’s health, but this isn’t always possible. Here are some way to keep in touch from a distance:

  • Call often, and encourage your loved one to call you
  • Set your loved one up with a simple email program
  • Use a webcam or Skype for “virtual visits”
  • Help your loved one create a Facebook page, or set up a family blog
  • Remember that cards, letters and photos never go out of style

Long-distance caregiving can be a challenge, but becomes much easier when you enlist the support of those experienced in dealing with the issues of aging. If you’d like to learn more about the services we provide, please contact us.

Categories: Caregiving, Geriatric Care

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