According to the MetLife Study of Long-Distance Caregiving, about 76 percent of people providing long-distance care were assisting a parent, stepparent or parent-in-law. On average, these caregivers live about 450 miles away from the person they care for, and it takes 7.23 hours to get to the senior's physical location. These factors can make it necessary to provide emotional and financial assistance over the phone. About 80 percent of long-distance caregivers still hold a full-time job while assisting their loved one, adding stress to daily life. If this sounds familiar, you may benefit from some advice for long-distance caregiving:
Keep records at hand
There is a lot of information to keep track of when you are far away from the person you are helping. In order to provide assistance in administrative matters like paying bills and making pharmacy mail-orders, you should keep the following information at home:
- The senior's social security number.
- His or her bank information.
- Doctors' phone numbers.
- Vehicle license plate and registration numbers.
- A copy of his or her birth certificate.
- A copy of his or her driver's license.
If the individual has health issues, also consider adding medical records to your list.
Work with someone who is local
You likely cannot skip out on daily life to address every need of the senior you care for. That is why it's crucial to work with someone who lives near him or her. This person may be a friend or relative, a neighbor or a paid nurse or home health aid. These individuals should be available to provide assistance to the senior at a moment's notice, as well as to check in on the person every few days. It will be a huge help to you knowing you can send someone you trust to provide assistance as needed.
"Communicating with the senior will help you spot potential problems."
Stay in touch
If a senior lives alone, he or she may not realize if something is amiss. For example, the person could be developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease and be completely unaware of this budding health condition. It's important that you stay in touch with the senior. Talk about any health complaints, and be a friend to listen and hear about the older individual's day. You can provide advice, offer reminders and ask questions to make sure your loved one is in good health and safe.
Work with healthcare providers
Seniors won't likely remember every bit of information they hear at a doctor's appointment. This is why you should be in contact with their physicians if you have the legal right to do so. Learn what medications the senior takes, discuss symptoms and understand what to look out for in terms of potential new conditions or the worsening of pre-existing issues. You may gain valuable insight into ways to assist the senior, like by providing him or her with a medical alert bracelet that issues medication reminders. You can also digest the information the doctor gave you and explain it to the senior if he or she forgets or is unsure, providing peace of mind for both parties.