If you have a loved one in need of care that lives more than an hour away, you’ve probably wondered what you can do. If that sounds like you, this article is here to help. In the following paragraphs, we’ll provide tips, ideas for how you can help your loved one, and resources for caregiving from a distance.
Tip 1: How to Get Started
To get started as a long-distance caregiver, you’ll need to be in consistent communication with those closest to your loved one. This can include their team of doctors, paid caregivers, neighbors, and nearby family or friends. You’ll want to check in regularly to ensure you’re up-to-date on changes to their condition and needs. Here are some questions to ask regularly:
- What are my loved one’s needs?
- How are they feeling about care?
- What do they want from care?
- What do their doctors think about the types of care needed?
- Who can handle what?
- In the event that the primary person assigned to a specific duty is unable to manage or carry out their task(s) for any reason, who is next in line to handle it?
Tip 2: Decide on Your Role
Caregiving is harder than most people imagine, so be careful not to bite off more than you can chew – especially when providing care from a distance.
Here are some examples of tasks you can consider managing from a distance:
- Managing/scheduling appointments and transport.
- Managing insurance for claims along the way.
- Researching the ailment/progression/healing process.
- Paying and staying on top of bills.
- Providing an empathetic listening ear to the person tasked with the major care role.
- Stay in touch over video, phone call, email, letter, etc. Checking in frequently will help you feel included and your loved one feel thought of.
- Visiting. As possible, visitation is one of the best ways to support your loved one. It will give you peace of mind to see how they’re cared for, or provide an opportunity for correction if needed.
Tip 3: Arrange and Organize
Once the roles have been divided, arranged, and assigned, it’s important to ensure your ducks are in a row, so to speak. Here’s what to organize:
- Pull together a file of pertinent medical documents and store it in an accessible place. This should include contact information for the doctor and care team, medication/prescription information, and family history (if available). It’s also wise to back this file up by scanning it into a computer or uploading it to the cloud (using software like DropBox or Google Drive) in case of the event that the originals are lost.
- Arrange power of attorney for medical care. This will designate who to turn to for medical related decisions if and when your loved one is no longer able to decide for themselves.
- Arrange power of attorney for financial decisions. Similarly, this will designate rights to your loved one’s financial property in the event they are no longer able to make these decisions and payments themselves.
- Ask your loved one the hard questions, like what their wishes are in life, in care, and in death. Record it in a living will.
- Write out a daily care plan with roles assigned. Put a date on the calendar to review this regularly to ensure that the level of care provided still matches the level of need.
When caregiving from a distance, there are many instances that are likely to make you feel stuck, frustrated, helpless, or worried. The good news is that you’re not alone in this struggle and there are people and resources out there to help. Here are some examples:
- Assistive technologies. Assistive technologies may be able to provide a welcomed answer to a difficult problem. There are high tech and low tech options, such as senior/disability friendly communication devices, alert systems that call emergency services in the event a fall is detected, in-home injury prevention tools (like strip lights to illuminate stairs), and more.
- Leaves of Absence. In California, there are many paid leave programs to help you as a caregiver including the California Paid Family Leave Act. These leaves are designed to give you a chance to provide care with job-protected and/or paid leaves of absence from work.
- The California Caregiver Resource Centers. Our non-profit Centers were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, which can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.
- Support Groups and Organizations. In addition to and beyond our Centers, there are many organizations and support groups that can help you with your research, provide insight and experience, or to simply offer an empathetic ear to listen to your concerns.
While caregiving at any distance is no easy task, we hope you’ve found some constructive ways you can take a part in your loved one’s care from far away. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact your local Center and they will be happy to offer support.Share this post: