Are “what ifs” keeping you awake? This checklist will help.
Caring for aging relatives is a challenge in the best of times; it’s doubly so when it’s done across the miles. It’s more worrisome when you can’t see your relative, so you’re always trying to figure out when you need to be there in person. Try these!
8 helpful hints to caring for a loved one long-distance:
- Plan before a crisis. When it comes to long-distance caregiving, you need to plan for the unexpected. Your next visit can offer a prime opportunity to do some preparation. While you’re there, set up a support system of friends, relatives and neighbors. Get to know these people so you can call them when you need someone to look in on your loved one. Also get to know their doctors.
- Get a copy of any essential medical, financial and legal information. These include social security numbers, health insurance policies, medical histories, wills, power of attorney paperwork and healthcare proxies, all of which might be needed in an emergency.
- Sit in on a doctor’s appointment. Get a diagnosis of your relative’s physical and mental problems, including a thorough assessment of what he or she can or cannot do independently.
- Involve your parent. Honor your parents’ independence and remember that they are adults. You need to allow them the freedom to remain themselves and make their own decisions, even wrong ones, as they age. If dementia is involved, that becomes quite a different matter.
- Involve the rest of your family. In most families, one person assumes primary responsibility for caregiving, but long-distance caregiving is more than a one-person job. Whoever takes on this responsibility needs to call on other family members and friends.
- Identify community resources. Most communities have resources sponsored by senior centers, churches and synagogues.
- Get professional help. Geriatric care managers can help you care long distance. Part social worker, errand-runner, family counselor, surrogate family member and crisis worker, a geriatric care manager helps plan and manage care for older people, often overseeing household, financial, legal, health, insurance and family issues.
- Maintain balance. Caregiving can have an emotional and physical toll on caregivers, especially when done at a distance. As much as possible, you can’t let that happen. Take care of yourself. This means eating right, getting adequate rest and keeping up with your own medical appointments.
Remember to take time for yourself. You not only deserve a break, but also need one.
Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies