Long-Distance Caregiving: How Can You Help a Loved One?

How can you keep an eye on a parent when you’re a few hundred or a few thousand miles away?

It’s a challenge – and it’s not uncommon: a projected 30% of family caregivers will be minding their loved one from afar by 2020, according to the National Council on Aging.

You may be the only caregiver, or you may have a relative who lives closer to your loved one and can help with immediate issues.

Whatever your role, you’ll want to pay a long enough visit to assess the situation and maybe go to a doctor’s visit with your loved one.

Here are things to look for if you’re worried:

  • Is there nutritious food in the house?
  • Are pills organized in a way that makes sense to your loved one?
  • Are your loved one’s clothes clean?
  • Is the house clean?
  • Are there area rugs, clutter, or other tripping hazards around?
  • How is your loved one’s health?
  • How is your loved one’s mood? Does she seem depressed or anxious?
  • Are bills being paid? Is mail piling up?
  • If your loved one is still driving, is the car dented or otherwise more damaged than when you last saw it?
  • Are there grab bars, ramps or other assistive devices needed to climb steps or be safer in the shower or tub?

If you think your loved one needs help, here are a few suggestions:

  • Arrange to have a friend or trusted neighbor drop by periodically.
  • Consider hiring a professional geriatric care manager, usually a social worker or licensed nurse, who can assess your loved one’s needs and help coordinate care. If there are conflicts with other family members, the care manager can also help lead discussions about caregiving decisions.
  • If your mother is the primary caregiver for your father, consider arranging respite care so she can have an occasional break. You can have someone come in to the house whom he knows or find an adult day program where he can go for activities.
  • If your loved one is a member of a religious congregation or club, arrange to have members provide meals a few days a week.
  • If you feel your loved one needs help with cooking or shopping, consider hiring an aide for a few hours each day.
  • If your loved one is confused about medication, consider a smartphone app that reminds him/her what to take and when. Another option is automated pill dispensers such as MedMinder Jon, which organizes, reminds, dispenses and notifies the person or family caregiver if a medication reminder is unanswered.
  • If you feel your loved one is unsafe at home, have a discussion about moving into a senior living community or help adapt the environment so it presents fewer hazards. Remove area rugs and move furniture that make it trickier to get around.
  • Check into remote technology such as Ring Video Doorbell, which will enable your loved one to see who is at the door on a camera inside the home.
  • Ask your loved one to complete a privacy release form so that you can speak to his or her doctor to get more information. See if the doctor will provide email or phone updates.
  • If bills are piling up, offer to set up an autopay through your loved one’s bank so that bills are automatically paid.
  • Make sure you have bank PIN and account numbers, your loved one’s birth certificate, Social Security and Medicare numbers, education and military records, a recent tax return, credit card account names and numbers, and other information that will be important in the future.
  • Organize paperwork such as legal documentation (advance directives, wills, insurance policies) and make sure you have durable power of attorney so you can make important healthcare decisions on behalf of your loved one when he/she cannot.
  • Connect with the Area Agency on Aging serving your loved one’s area. There is an Area Agency on Aging in every part of the country. They can help you find local resources, organizations, companies and programs that might be able to help. Visit the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator website to locate the Area Agency on Aging where your loved one lives.

This blog post is courtesy of the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit responsible for serving more than 700,000 people 60 and older in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. By providing community-based services from meals to in-home care, the Area Agency on Aging 1-B enables older adults and adults with disabilities to maintain their health and independence in their homes. More information is available by calling the AAA 1-B Information and Assistance Telephone line at (800) 852-7795 or visiting www.aaa1b.org. We’ll be partnering with AAA 1-B on our Midlife Map series. Their experts will provide monthly tips geared toward the “sandwich generation” – people in midlife facing the complicated juggling act of caring for children and older parents at the same time.

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Photo credit: Sladic

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