Ten Tips for Long Distance Caregivers
Your aging mom lives by herself. She doesn’t drive anymore, so she’s lost touch with her friends and given up her hobbies. You visit as often as you can but, because she lives in Missouri and you live in Nebraska, you worry it’s not often enough.
“It’s really hard,” said Debbie Hilt, a consultant with the HomeCare Advocacy Network (HomeCare). “I talk to my mom at least once every day, but I know that’s not enough. My brother lives nearby, and he does so much for my mom. I feel guilty that I can’t do more to help him, and that I can’t spend more quality time with her.”
Long-distance Caregiver Tips
If you’re a long-distance caregiver, here are ten tips to help you help overcome some of the challenges.
Evaluate what you can and cannot do. Are you good with money? If so, you can offer to manage the finances. If you’re an organizer, you can coordinate home maintenance, arrange transportation or put together a calendar for friends and neighbors who want to visit or bring meals. Once you figure out what you can do, you’ll be able to identify caregiving gaps.
Develop a care plan. If possible, bring family members together for a meeting, so you can determine your loved one’s primary needs, who can provide assistance and what community resources might be available. Make sure everyone knows the care plan will likely change as your loved one’s needs change.
Gather important contact information and keep it handy. Make sure you have contact information for doctors, nurses, pharmacies, neighbors and other family members – and make sure they know how to reach you 24/7.
Take care of necessary paperwork. Find all legal, financial and insurance documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce decrees, wills, power of attorney and bank accounts. Review the documents for accuracy, update if necessary and store them in a secure place.
Plan visits. Coordinate the timing of your visits, so you can help with doctor’s appointments, shopping, routine home maintenance and other tasks. Be sure to also enjoy some quality time with your loved one.
Ask for help. It can be hard to ask for help but the reality is, you can’t manage everything by yourself. Consider asking local friends or neighbors to check in periodically and see if they would be willing to be on standby in the event of an emergency.
Continually assess care needs. Each time you visit, carefully assess the situation to make sure your loved one’s needs are being met.
Tap into the local aging network. Contact your loved one’s church, local department on aging and other organizations to see if they can help with meal delivery, transportation or other activities.
Consider hiring a professional caregiver. Professional caregivers can help with everything from companionship, daily chores and personal care. They also provide much needed peace of mind when you’re not able to be there.
Take care of yourself. Caregiving can be demanding – even from a distance. Make sure you make time to replenish – eat well, get plenty of rest and exercise daily. If you’re exhausted or rundown, you won’t be a great caregiver.
HomeCare can help
“At HomeCare, we understand how difficult long-distance caregiving can be,” said Sierra Goetz, co-founder and operations manager at HomeCare. “We can help. Our trained professional caregivers can assist with transportation, meal prep, light housekeeping, personal care, Alzheimer’s care and more. Whether it’s a few hours a week or 24/7, we will work with you to develop a customized care plan that meets your family’s unique needs.”