With over 7 million adults providing long-distance care to their loved ones, Americans are increasingly seeking ways to make the distance-gap less cumbersome. Providing care while living in the same city as your parent is taxing enough, but living an hour or more away only exasperates the doubt and concerns that arise when it comes to your parent receiving proper care.
Managing a loved one’s health is never easy, regardless of the location, however there are ways to feel more prepared and productive when you are providing long-distance care.
1. Stay Informed: When it comes to your parent’s health, knowledge really is power. Research as much as you can regarding your parent’s illness and treatment. By knowing exactly what is going on with your parent you will be better able to prevent crises, and anticipate what is coming next. Assembling a notebook detailing the disease, medication, doctor’s appointments and changes in health is your biggest resource. Make copies of your research and disperse it to all those involved with the care of your loved one. It is also critical to make sure at least one family member has written permission to receive medical or financial information.
2. Documents You Should Include in your Notebook: Being an effective caregiver means keeping your information straight and up-to-date. Gathering your parent’s personal, health, financial and legal information can be extremely frustrating and time consuming. Assembling this information in a different city only adds to the stress. However, having your parent’s information is a priceless tool, you will feel more at ease about your parent’s condition and be able to respond better in an emergency. Gathering all of this information will probably take more than one visit. Find the most important information first and work on filling the gaps as you go. If your parent lives with a primary caregiver ask them to aid in finding relevant documents and information. Throughout the information gathering process it is important to be aware of your parent’s privacy and make sure they do not feel as though you are invading it. Explain to them that you are not trying to impose on their private life, rather you are preparing their personal information in case a situation arises so all the proper documents will be readily accessible.
3. Don’t Feel Overwhelmed by Visits: The most important aspect of a visit with your loved one is the planning you do before you arrive. With a limited amount of time available to you, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to visiting your parent. Prioritize what you and your loved one would like to do ahead of time. Your parent may need help around the house, or have errands they cannot complete on their own. You may also want to visit with their physician. Do not try to accomplish everything in one weekend, set your priorities and plan accordingly. It is also important to remember that your trip is not all business. Schedule time for activities you both enjoy, take time to relax and cherish each others company.
4. Involve Siblings in Care: When it comes to caring for parents, one of the most challenging tasks is deciding how to divide up tasks among siblings. While one sibling is usually left with the majority of the caregiving duties, it is important to establish early on what each sibling is willing or capable of doing. Having this conversation early will prevent many headaches in the future. If you are not the primary caregiver, never underestimate the power of offering appreciation, positive reinforcement and reassurance to the primary caregiver.
5. Stay in Touch: It is important to keep in constant contact with your loved one, so they have someone to confide in, and you receive the proper assurance they are being well taken care of. Families can schedule conference calls with doctors, nursing staff, or assisted living facility members to check in on their parent’s health. You may also want to seek the aid of friends and nearby relatives who can visit your parent and report back to you, as they can often provide a more accurate interpretation of the situation.
While most long-distance caregivers serve as a support mechanism and occasional respite for a primary caregiver, their role is still a vital cog in their loved one’s overall care. Long distance caregivers who remain active and present in their loved one’s life get more satisfaction out of their role, while alleviating some of the fears associated with living away from a loved one requiring care.
- How to Get Your Siblings to Share the Caregiving Burden (lifefoneblog.com)
- The Caregiver Next Door (lifefoneblog.com)