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6 Tips for Long Distance Family Caregivers

Many families live long distances from one another. Caregiving from afar is more prevalent today than it has been in years. Trends in family mobility and urbanization are moving more and more adult children farther from their aging parents, making family care more difficult.

If you are one of the many who don’t live near your aging parents, no need to panic. You can still be actively involved and take on a meaningful caregiving role from miles away. The following tips can be very helpful for long-distance caregivers who can’t be near their loved one to provide daily care.

Gather and Organize all Important Documents

Find the following documentation and records and put them all into one binder or folder: all legal, financial, and insurance documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce decrees, wills and power of attorney. Identify bank accounts, titles, sources of income and obligations, and auto, life, homeowner’s and medical insurance papers.

Review these documents for accuracy and update them if necessary. Make a backup copy for your records and place everything in a safe place, such as a safe-deposit box or a fireproof box. Having all this key information in one location will help you when they’re needed.

Develop a Care Plan

Bring the family together for a care planning meeting. Decide, with your aging loved one, what their primary needs are and who can aid in that care. Also identify the local senior services and other resources that are available in the community. In a perfect world, you should summarize your plans in writing to refer to when a situation arises.

Plan Your Visits

It’s important that you see your loved one during the year to spend quality time with them, but also to reassess their care needs.

  • Make appointments with their healthcare professionals, attorney and financial adviser during your visit to ask questions and participate in key decision-making.
  • Meet with neighbors, friends and other local relatives to hear how they think the person is doing. Ask if there have been any behavioral changes, health problems or safety issues that you should be aware of and address them immediately.
  • Check your loved one’s pantry, cabinets and refrigerator to make sure there is enough appropriate food. Throw out any food that is expired. Help them prepare meals that can be frozen and enjoyed later.
  • Review all medications to make sure they are being taken as prescribed.
  • Coordinate family meetings to discuss how the care plan is working, what changes need to happen, or simply use this time to give the local family caregiver a break. If any changes are made to the care plan, update the original document and distribute to family members.
  • Spend quality time together talking, listening to music, going for a walk or participating in activities you enjoy together.

Survey the House

When you are visiting, use this time to evaluate their living conditions. Check each room to make sure the lighting is working properly, and remove potential trip hazards such as cords, furniture and rugs. Walk around the house and yard to evaluate outdoor steps, landscaping and lighting to ensure pathways are safe and clear. If something isn’t working properly or could be a safety hazard, fix it or hire a professional.

Stay Connected

Utilize today’s technology to communicate with doctors and caregivers. If a neighbor or friend regularly checks on your parent, call or text to get regular updates from them. Allocate time from your weekly schedule to call or video chat with your parent. Hearing their voice and catching up on their daily happenings will reduce the feelings that you are both isolated from each other.

Take Good Care of Yourself

Caring for your parent – at any distance – can be stressful and overwhelming. In any case, you need to maintain your own health. Make time for yourself, set limits, and allow assistance from other family members and possibly professional caregivers.