Who is a long-distance caregiver?Anyone, anywhere, can be a long-distance caregiver, no matter your gender, income, age, social status, or employment. If you are living an hour or more away from a person who needs your help, you’re probably a long-distance caregiver.
- Help with finances, money management, or bill paying
- Arrange for in-home care—hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help get needed durable medical equipment
- Locate care in an assisted living facility or nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility)
- Provide emotional support and occasional respite care for a primary caregiver, the person who takes on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities
- Serve as an information coordinator—research health problems or medicines, help navigate through a maze of new needs, and clarify insurance benefits and claims
- Keep family and friends updated and informed
- Create a plan and get paperwork in order in case of an emergency
- Evaluate the house and make sure it's safe for the older person's needs
- Ask the primary caregiver, if there is one, and the care recipient how you can be most helpful
- Talk to friends who are caregivers to see if they have suggestions about ways to help
- Find out more about local resources that might be useful
- Develop a good understanding of the person’s health issues and other needs
- Visit as often as you can; not only might you notice something that needs to be done and can be taken care of from a distance, but you can also relieve a primary caregiver for a short time
talking with the doctor easier.
Get written permission, as needed under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, to receive medical and financial information. To the extent possible, the family member with permission should be the one to talk with all healthcare providers. Try putting together a notebook, on paper or online, that includes all the vital information about medical care, social services, contact numbers, financial issues, and so on. Make copies for other caregivers, and keep it up-to-date.
Get tips for caregivers to make doctor's appointments easier.
Remember to actually spend time visiting with your family member. Try to make time to do things unrelated to being a caregiver, like watching a movie, playing a game, or taking a drive. Finding time to do something simple and relaxing can help everyone—it can be fun and build family memories. And, try to let outside distractions wait until you are home again.
Don’t underestimate the value of a phone and email contact list. It is a simple way to keep everyone updated on your parents’ needs.
You may also want to give the person you care for a cell phone (and make sure he or she knows how to use it). Or, if your family member lives in a nursing home, consider having a private phone line installed in his or her room. Program telephone numbers of doctors, friends, family members, and yourself into the phone, and perhaps provide a list of the speed-dial numbers to keep with the phone. Such simple strategies can be a lifeline. But try to be prepared should you find yourself inundated with calls from your parent.
Learn about geriatric care managers and how they may be able to support you and your family in your role as caregivers.
- Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
- National Institute on Aging website
- Family Care Navigator
- Your state government’s website
This article was found on the National Institute on Aging's website: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/getting-started-long-distance-caregiving.