Caregivers must be available for their loved ones at varying times of the day. If there is an emergency and the caregiver is needed promptly, it would be convenient for a caregiver that lives 20 minutes or less away. The faster a caregiver can arrive, the quicker an issue will be resolved. But what about caregivers that aren’t in the neighborhood?
They’re called long-distance caregivers, and according to the National Institute on Aging, there are approximately seven million of them, mostly caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away. Historically, caregivers have been primarily mid-life, working women who have other family responsibilities. However, more and more men are becoming caregivers, about 40 percent. Long-distance caregiving involves a variety of tasks, including helping manage the money to arranging for in-home care, providing respite care for a primary caregiver or helping a parent move to a new home or facility. Many act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of home health aides, insurance benefits and durable medial equipment.
And caregiving is often a long-term situation. What begins as a monthly trip to check on mom may turn into a larger project to move her to a nursing facility close to her caregiver’s home. Here are some key steps for long-distance caregivers, according to the National Institute of Aging:
- Seek out help from people in the community: the next-door neighbor, an old friend or the doctor. Call them, inform them of your loved one’s situation and make sure they know how to reach you.
- Take steps to identify options to help the primary caregiver. He or she may not need the help now, but being prepared can help in case of a crisis.
- Try to find a directory of senior resources and services by checking with a library or senior center for lists of resources. Get several copies, one for yourself and one for the primary caregiver.
- Gather a list of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Get doses and schedules. This information is essential in a medical emergency. Update it regularly.
- When you visit, go through the house looking for possible hazards (such as loose rugs, poor lighting, unsafe clutter) and safety concerns (such as grab bars needed in the bathroom). Stay for a weekend or week and help make needed improvements.
- Find out if your parent has an advance directive stating his or her health care treatment preferences. If not, talk about setting one up. If so, make sure you have a copy and you know where a copy is kept. You might want to make sure the primary caregiver has a copy, and the doctor should also have a copy for medical records.
Setting up a free CareTogether account is a great way to organize and manage all of this information and more. CareTogether allows families to set up a private account to which they can invite other family members so everyone is in the loop. Loved ones can provide updates, send messages to one another and, most important, share a private calendar that allows everyone keep track of a loved one’s appointments. Click here to set up your free account!