It’s not always possible for family caregivers to live near their loved one which may be stressful for the caregiver and their family. Whether you need to move away for work, school, or any other personal reason, you may be wondering if you can meet your aging relative’s needs from afar. While not impossible, it may be difficult to manage or find a groove but luckily there are some ways to manage the stresses and make it easier on both of you.
According to a recent study by AARP, eleven percent of caregivers live an hour or more away from their loved one and are finding ways to make it work. With the right technology and support, you can provide a high level of care despite the distance. Here are some tips to help you successfully navigate the challenges of long-distance caregiving while maintaining high-quality of care and managing one’s stress .
Create a Care Plan
If your family member doesn’t have a care plan yet and you wish to set them up for success, it’s a good idea to create a plan. After all a goal without a plan, is just a wish. A care plan is a document that outlines your loved one’s needs and goals, such as aging in place for as long as possible. It also lays out who will provide the support they require and when, serving as a caregiving schedule. The CDC has a template that can help you draft this document for your loved one.
Having a care plan in place will keep everyone involved in your relative’s care organized and on the same page. As your loved one ages, you can revisit it and adjust it to reflect their changing health and needs. If others schedules change, you can try to swap out shifts or checkups with other nearby relatives, loved ones, or a professional caregiver.
Figure Out How to Support Your Loved One
Once you’ve created a care plan and identified which tasks your family member needs help with, you can figure out how to support them from afar. Although you can’t provide care in person, you can still contribute by managing their finances, coordinating their healthcare, or ordering their groceries and meals for them online. You can also call them regularly to keep in touch, which can help prevent them from feeling lonely and isolated. Be reasonable about the amount and type of care you can accomplish depending on your schedule and don’t feel guilty if you need to ask for help.
Enlist Professional Help
Although there are many ways to support your loved one from a distance such as managing their finances, there are some tasks you may not be able to help them with. For example, you can’t drive them to doctor’s appointments or clean their home once per week when you live far away.
Your loved one may have other family members or friends nearby who can bridge those gaps and provide the assistance they need. However, if your relative doesn’t have an adequate support network or requires a high level of care, it could be time to bring in professional help.
Our skilled in-home caregivers can assist your relative with activities of daily living like cooking, cleaning, and getting dressed. They can also be a companion for your loved one and watch over them so you have peace of mind that they’re safe. Our certified nurses can even provide skilled care like wound dressing and intravenous therapy to seniors who need it, all in the comfort of their own home. So no matter what level or type of care your loved one needs, we’ll cover those gaps of service to give you peace of mind.
Utilize Local Resources
Long-distance caregiving can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Your local Area Agency on Aging can connect you with community-based services that can help your loved one age in place. They can also determine if your relative qualifies for in-home care services through Medicaid to assist with activities of daily living.
You could even make a list of your loved ones favorite local places to go and provide it to their local caregivers or leave it at their house. This way, their caregiver can take them to those places during their free time so they can get out of the house and take care of their mental health.
Plan for Emergencies
Although no one wants to think about their family member getting sick, you should create an emergency plan just in case something happens. Working out the logistics in advance will help you get to your loved one’s side faster.
Some things to think about when creating your emergency plan include what type of transportation you’ll take and who will look after your kids or pets while you’re gone. You may also want to set aside some money for gas or airfare and keep a bag packed so you’re ready to go if needed.
Get Important Documents in Order
Another way to plan for emergencies is to get your loved one’s important documents in order. If they have a health emergency, you may need access to their financial and medical information on short notice. Since you live far away, you can’t drive to their home and pick up the necessary documents quickly. That’s why it’s important to have the information you need forwarded to you in advance.
Here are some of the documents and information you may want to gather ahead of time:
- Insurance information with policy numbers
- List of medications
- A copy of your relative’s will
- Payment instructions for any bills or debts
- Name of bank and account number
- Contact information for their lawyer, financial advisor, and doctors
Technology can make it easier to stay in touch with your loved one and coordinate their care. You can use Skype to video chat with your relative and attend their doctor’s appointments remotely. You may also find caregiving apps like Caring Bridge and Caring Village helpful. They serve as a hub for your relative’s care team and have calendars, to-do lists, and message boards for exchanging important updates.
You can even use smart technology to keep an eye on your loved one. Security cameras allow you to see how they’re doing and GPS trackers can help you keep tabs on where they are. There are also wireless sensors you can place throughout their home to monitor their activity.
Alarm.com has a wellness system that can tell you if your relative is eating regularly, taking their medications, and getting enough exercise by tracking their movement throughout their home. It will even alert you if your loved one opens an exterior door or wanders around at night so you can get someone to check on them.
Visit When You Can
Technology is a useful tool for staying connected, but nothing beats visiting your loved one in person. You’ll be able to spend quality time with them and see how they’re doing, which will help you identify gaps in their care. Visiting also gives you a chance to meet with their local caregivers and doctors to address any concerns you may have face-to-face.
If you need to take time off work to care for your loved one, you may qualify for paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. You can find out more by talking to your employer’s human resources department.
Take Care of Yourself
Although you’re caring for your relative from afar, you can still suffer from caregiver burnout. Research has shown that long-distance caretakers tend to have higher levels of anxiety than caregivers who live close to their loved one. They also report feeling more burdened by their caretaking responsibilities and having less support.
That’s why it’s important to make time for self-care activities like reading a book, taking a bath, or going for a walk. Joining a caregiver support group or talking to a sympathetic friend can also give you an emotional outlet and help lower your stress levels.
You’ve got this!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your long-distance caretaking duties, it may even be a good idea to hire a professional caregiver to take some of the weight off your shoulders so you can be the best you for your family. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your loved one age in place. We provide a wide variety of care including day-to-day activities, medical-needs, specialized disease care, transportation, companionship, and more and can always adjust based on your loved one ever-changing needs.