Long Distance Caregiving

What is long distance caregiving?

Long-distance caregiving takes many forms—from helping manage the money to arranging in home care; manage medication or coordination care. Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of home health aides, insurance benefits, and durable medical equipment can be difficult.

Caregiving is often a long-term task. What may start out as an occasional social phone call to share family news can eventually turn into regular phone calls about managing health insurance claims, getting medical information, and arranging respite services. What begins as a monthly trip to check on Mom may turn into a larger project to move her to a nursing facility close to your home.

What You Should Do (or Think About Doing)

1) Seek out help from people in the community: the next door neighbor, an old friend, the doctor. Call them. Tell them what is going on. Make sure they know how to reach you.

2) Take steps to identify options to help the primary caregiver. He or she may not need the help now, but having plans and arrangements in place can make things easier if there is a crisis.

3) Try to find a directory of senior resources and services by checking with a library or senior center for lists of resources.

4) Become Healthcare  proxy or power of attorney.

5) Get organized with documentations (updated medication lists, doctors names and phone numbers, and other financial information if necessary)

How to Know if Help is Needed

Sometimes it is hard to know when is the right time. Sometimes our loved ones are stubborn and fight us even though we know they need a little extra help. When you live far away, you have to think carefully about possible signs when help is needed. You might want to use holiday trips home to take stock.

Some questions to answer during your visit include:

  • How many stairs are there?
  • Are the stairs manageable or is a ramp needed?
  • Are there any tripping hazards throughout the house? Carpets, floorboards or other impediments?
  • How is their health? Are they attending all their doctors appointments?
  • Are they taking several medications? If so, are they able to manage their medications? Medication management can be extremely difficult.
  • If a walker or wheelchair is needed, can the house be modified?
  • Is there food in the fridge? Are there staples in the cupboards? Do they have a way of getting food delivered?
  • Are bills being paid? Is mail piling up?
  • Is the house clean?
  • If your parents are still driving, should they be? Now might be a time to assess their driving.
  • What about mood: Does either parent seem depressed or anxious?

Long-distance caregivers can help arrange for professional caregivers, hiring home health and nursing aides, or locating assisted living and nursing home care.

Tips

Become knowledgeable. It is recommended recommend that you learn as much as you can about your parent's illness and treatment. Information can help you understand what is going on, anticipate the course of an illness, prevent crises, and assist in disease management. Learn as much as you can about the resources available. Make sure at least one family member has written permission to receive medical and financial information.

Planning your visits is important. When visiting your parent, you may feel that there is just too much to do in the time that you have. You can get more done and feel less stressed by talking to your parent ahead of time and finding out what he or she would like to do.

Remember to actually spend time with your loved one. Life can get in the way, but it is important to spend quality time with your parent. Do not spend the entire time dealing with medical issues and other planning crisis. Spend some time just catching up.

Stay in contact. Don't lose sight how beneficial it is to just check in once a week or more with a loved one. Include them in your life and activities. Update them on their grandchildren etc...

Hiring a Geriatric Care manager navigate this maze can sometimes relieve this burden. These are professionals who can sometimes act as the "daughter with knowledge".