When distance prevents you from supporting a senior loved one in-person, it is common to have anxiety about what might happen if a sensitive or emergency situation should arise. While you can help manage finances and arrange for local in-home senior care, sometimes they need something unexpected. In these circumstances as a long-distance caregiver, it is important for you to effectively communicate with your loved one. Being a long-distance caregiver can have its challenges. Feelings of guilt about the distance are common.
Evaluate What You Can Do as a Long-Distance Caregiver
If you live more than an hour away from the person who needs your help, then you are a long-distance caregiver. There are still a lot of ways you can help by doing the following:
- Help with money management, using tools such as online bill pay.
- Hire a professional in-home personal care agency; in addition to being your eyes and ears in the home they will help you identify necessary medical equipment and safety equipment upgrades for your loved one’s home.
- A qualified agency will also be able to provide transportation to appointments and can help you maintain an emergency preparedness plan.
- Research health conditions and prescription medications. Communicate with medical insurance
- Locate and organize paperwork, so it’s easy to access in an emergency.
- Communicate regularly with the in-home care agency, doctors, and other healthcare workers.
- Reach out to your loved one regularly through video chat, facetime or whatever means works best for you. While they may not be “tech-savvy,” there are low-tech ways to communicate using tablets and mobile phones.
- Provide emotional support for the local family member who is providing care. Ask how you can help. Seek support from friends and neighbors.
Gather Information and Resources
To be an effective long-distance caregiver, you need both communication and access.
Have a meeting with your loved one and any other family members who will share duties of care to decide how best to divide responsibilities. Take notes on your loved one’s medical condition. Maintain a list of medications they currently take and keep it with you so you can answer questions by telephone. Also include contact information for doctors they see. A qualified agency will help you perform and maintain these responsibilities.
If you’re providing help with money management, document all account numbers, utility providers, lienholders, and other details. If they don’t already have it, work with your loved ones to set up online access so you both can view account balances and pay bills.
Assure that you are named their HIPAA representative so you can speak with local medical personnel. Ask your loved one to sign this release, so their doctors can talk to you and your agency provider about medical appointments, even if you’re unable to attend. Health care records are often available online, so you may be able to access them that way, as well.
If your agency provider is only in the home periodically, get to know a nearby neighbor so you have someone close by who you can contact in case of emergency. If you select the right agency, they will also be able to provide Care Management, a higher level of services..
Make the Most of Visits Home
When you can be with your loved one, make the agency aware of your planned visit well in advance. Do not cancel shifts, as you want to spend quality time with your loved one and not spoil the visit by running yourself ragged providing personal care. You may want to schedule medical appointments when you can be present, so you can hear firsthand about any changes or medication adjustments. Evaluate how your loved one handles daily tasks such as fixing food, grooming, and housework. Take advantage of your visit to meet with your agency provider, communicate your observations and ask for their advice. A proper care plan is always in motion; the agency will help you update it regularly in order to adjust to changes in your loved one’s condition.
A family meeting may help to divide responsibilities among siblings.
Get training. You will feel more comfortable assisting with personal care or medications if you know how to do it correctly.
You may not be able to be present as often as you’d like, but having professional care to assist you from afar can make all the difference.
Call Arista Home Care Solutions today at (419) 754-1897. We are here to help.