Your heart may be in the right place, but until it’s possible for someone to be in two places at once, there will be times when caregiving from afar is the only realistic option. How you manage the long-distance caregiving situation will determine how well it works.
Here are some suggestions to improve long-distance caregiving.
Get to Know Key People
If you suddenly find yourself caring for an ill or elderly parent from a different city or state, you’ll feel better about their circumstances if you’ve met their caregivers, neighbors and friends.
Is your parent in an assisted living facility or nursing home? Make an effort to meet the entire staff so you and they become more than just names. Are your parents still living independently? Meet the neighbors and friends who they see on a regular basis — and be sure they know how to get in touch with you if they notice anything out of the ordinary.
Creating a caring community contact list will make it easy to get in touch when it matters, too.
Plan for Anything and Everything
Personal affairs — things like living wills, healthcare directives, insurance paperwork and other financial necessities and much more — can be complex, but they are critical. Make sure there are no surprises by creating medical, financial and emergency care plans that clearly communicate what should happen if an unexpected event occurs, no matter where you happen to be. Put these plans down in writing, using a legal or financial professional if necessary.
These documents will create peace of mind when it really matters, by removing all doubt about what to do next.
Agree to Disagree
Families often struggle with crucial caregiving decisions. Do not try to resolve caregiving needs when the discussion also starts to trigger disagreements that go back years. Communication and conflict resolution are challenging at the best of times. Ideally, try to make major caregiving decisions that involve the entire family when all of you are together in the same room, with a fresh, clean slate.
Be honest and fair — and always remember that your loved one’s needs come first.
Ask for Professional Help if You Need It
There’s nothing wrong with seeking outside advice when you’re in a remote caregiving situation. Ask the primary care provider for recommendations on local, independent advocates who can represent you and oversee care in your absence. In many communities, these services are free.
The website for the National Alliance for Caregiving is also a very helpful resource. A CaringBridge Site, your own personal caregiver blog, can help you communicate with family, friends and loved ones when you’re in a remote caregiving situation.
Please Share Your Experiences and Insights With Us
We’d like to hear your thoughts about remote caregiving. Please share your remote caregiving success stories and questions below.