While care giving is difficult, long distance caregiving may be even more stressful. This stress comes from the constant worrying about your loved one when you are not able to immediately be there to assist them if there is a problem.
So to that end I am going to give you several tips and ideas for how you can manage as a long distance caregiver and insure that you and your parents are OK…
1) See whom you can enlist as part of your local support group. By this I mean any family members or friends in the local area who can visit or run errands.
2) When you visit (if you can’t try to get a local relative or a social worker instead) perform a geriatric assessment to see if your parents can safely live on their own.
3) Resist the “relocation reaction” unless it is absolutely necessary. Often moving your parents in with you…as opposed to you being a long distance caregiver…can do more harm than good by taking your parents away from familiar surroundings and friends. So think really hard on this one before you make this decision.
Video Overview of Long Distance Caregiving
4) You can make arrangements for a home health care worker to visit to help take care of your parents. I have created a guide for you to choose the right home health care agency here.
5) Contact the local Post Office. Speak with the local postmaster and ask them to have the letter carrier on your parents route to report any unusual activity to you or to the police. There have been several instances I have seen on the news where a postal worker has saved the life of a senior citizen on their route by noticing something out of the ordinary and calling for help.
6) Call the local Police Department and ask them the same thing. They may be in a position to give a little more attention to your parents and check on them during snowstorms or other emergency situations.
7) As a long distance caregiver check with the local Office of the Aging and see if they have any “elder watch” or telephone reassurance programs where volunteers can be in daily contact with your parents to make sure that everything is all right.
8) Save your vacation and personal days at work to be used in the event an emergency visit is necessary. In addition, if transportation costs will be high…here I am thinking of either air fare or car rental…you better have that money saved in an emergency fund to be used if a crisis arises.
9) Call as much as you can
10) As the long distance caregiver, it is important not tho step on the primary caregivers toes. This means they know the situation better than you. So it is OK to question or suggest…just make sure that the tone you use is appropriate.
Making The Visit Count
It seems like there are never enough hours in the day, especially when you visit family…and try and sneak in a visit to old friends in the area. You need to make the most of your visit and use your “6th sense” to pick up on any potential trouble. Some of the things that you can watch out for…
- Is mail left unopened?
- Are the bills being paid?
- Are they managing their finances properly? This might be tough for you to determine but there can be some tell-tale signs, such as ordering excessively from infomercials.
- Have they been active? Do your parents still go out? Interact with friends?
- What’s in the refrigerator? Do the purchases look recent or is the food spoiled?
These are a few of the things you can look for when you visit. If any of these seem awry, then maybe it is time for you to make arrangements to visit more often…or make alternate living arrangements for your folks.