Caregiving is hard enough, but when you have to do it long-distance, it’s that much harder. When you’re not physically present, you can’t run errands for your loved one, take them to doctor’s appointments, check their home care medical equipment, and so forth. You’re also not there to monitor your loved one and you can’t be there quickly in an emergency. This can be stressful.
However, there are things you can do from afar, as well as ways to make in-person visits as productive as possible. Here are four practical tips for long-distance caregivers.
Make a contact list
Since you’re not with your loved one in person, you have to rely on other people to help care for them. As such, it’s vital that you have a list of contacts that you can reach out to for a variety of caregiving needs.
Gather a list of phone numbers, email addresses, and addresses of your loved one’s friends, neighbors, doctors, faith leaders, and anyone else who has (or could have) regular contact with your loved one, both for emergencies and everyday care. For example, these contacts could help out with grocery shopping or buying elder care supplies, or they could drive your loved one to a doctor’s appointment.
Make sure you have one person who can easily check on your loved one, and consider giving this person the key to your loved one’s house (if your loved one is okay with that, of course). Give a copy of this list to your loved one, as well.
Prepare materials for an emergency
When there is a crisis, the last thing you want to be doing is frantically searching for medical records, phone numbers, and other important information. Collect medical records, the names of all medication they take, notes on their condition, the names and phone numbers of all doctors, and the name and address of their pharmacy.
Also, get a list of your loved one’s insurance policies, carriers, and phone numbers. Collect all information related to finances including a list of all assets and debts, yearly income and expenses, bank account information, and so on. Get the names of their utility companies and contact information for them. And lastly, gather all important legal documents such as wills, trusts, power of attorney, deeds, Social Security numbers, etc.
Schedule a family meeting
Gather the friends and family members involved in your loved one’s care either in person or by phone or Skype. Discuss your feelings and your plans and delegate duties. Choose one person to summarize the decisions made and distribute copies to everyone after. Make sure you include your loved one in this process, if possible.
Make visits as productive as possible
When you do get the chance to see your loved one, prepare in advance so you can make the most out of the visit. Before you go, talk to your loved one and decide what needs to be done while you’re there. For example, write down what needs to be purchased—caregiver products, equipment for elderly care at home, household items, and so forth. Go through mail and old papers and look for safety hazards in the house. Observe how they’re eating and see what kind of food they have in their refrigerator and pantry. Check to see how they’re maintaining the home, as well as their personal appearance and hygiene. Essentially, assess their daily needs and how well they’re being met.
Being a long-distance caregiver is hard, but with the right planning, delegating, and monitoring, you can be quite involved and effective from afar. Create a list of important contacts, prepare as best you can for an emergency, schedule a family meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands what they should be doing, and prepare for your visits so they can be productive.