Long distance caregiving tips...
I live across the country at the present time, and I speak to my parents once or twice a week. How do I know if they need help? Do many others try to do long distance caregiving?
Thank you for this question. There are over 7 million family caregivers that provide assistance for long distance. Long distance caregivers take on many different roles: Financial caregiver, act as information coordinators, or care managers. If you are a an organized person, you may be the one that does research on medical conditions or options for treatment or future care needs. Still others help provide financial support for the primary caregiver to have respite care.
Caregiving is intermittent and unpredictable. The caregiving journey may last as long as 6 to 20 years. The primary caregiver needs respite weekly, as well as coverage for vacations. Regular communication with the primary caregiver showing appreciation, support, positive feedback and reassurance goes a long way. These simple little things can mean so much to someone that is providing care to your aging family member.
Everyone in the family has special qualities and abilities. Some are good at leading and managing others. Other family members may be better are running day to day activities, still others, can fix anything in the house. Identifying each family members abilities and assigning tasks that are suitable. Holding regular eldercare meetings, even via the phone, keeps the lines of communication open.
More long distance caregiving tips...
If you are the only child, and a long distance caregiver, in the beginning you may want to visit several times a year. It is important to get organized and prepare to take care of 2 households. Prepare for a crisis, before a crisis occurs.
Make your visits count. You want your time to be enjoyable, but it also needs to be productive. These are times when you should discuss important topics- getting the right paper work in place for future care needs. This involves learning about finances and health care wishes.
It is also a time when you must become a detective. It is important to observe the mail, is there any unopened correspondence? Are they paying bills and balancing the checkbook? Check out the pantry and refrigerator. Does it appear they are eating properly?
Are they going to doctors appointments? Socializing with friends? Maintaining the home? Taking medications as ordered?
Start early to investigate community resources. This would include in home health care companies, Meals on Wheels, or services available through the local Department of Aging.
It is also a time to explore finances and benefits available to your aging parents when the time comes. Was one of your parents a military veteran? Do they have long term care insurance? Take time to meet with the insurance adjuster to get a full understanding of the policy they have purchased.
Get help with managing the care. Care coaching is an option that that will help you to gauge your aging parents abilities and needs and help plan for their future care needs.
You may want to hire a private care manager to eldercare consultant to help you plan for future care needs, as well.
The most important part of being a long distance caregiver, is being sensitive to the needs of your aging parents and keeping the line of communications opened. You may be met with resistance when it comes time to having outside help in the home. Be prepared to have an objective third party, such as a doctor or religious leader to intervene on your behalf.
Learn stress management techniques to help you get through this difficult time.