02 Jan 2020
We are delighted to feature this guest article on long-distance caregiving, written by Claire Wentz from Caring From Afar
Being a caregiver for a senior loved one is not for the faint of heart. It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, and it can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Even more challenging is when you’re a long-distance caregiver. Whether your loved one lives 30 minutes away or on the other side of the country, the responsibility for their health and well-being can weigh heavily when you can’t be there for them at a moment’s notice.
Fortunately, there are ways to relieve some of the stress and burden of long-distance caregiving and help you fulfill your role as effectively as possible.
Keep in touch with your loved one.
First things first: You want to stay connected to your loved one. That way, you will always be in the loop and won’t have to guess as much about how your loved one is doing. Schedule a time of day to speak with them each day, and if they fail to call you, be sure to try calling them. Having an established call time will help reduce your worry on a daily basis.
One way to help you and your loved one stay in touch is to get them a cell phone, along with a plan designed specifically for seniors. Mobile providers like Verizon have special wireless plans for seniors that come with unlimited calls, text, and data.
Stay up-to-date with the healthcare team.
Also, be sure to keep in touch with your loved one’s team of healthcare professionals. For instance, speaking regularly with their doctors and/or assisted living/nursing home staff will keep you in the loop of their progress and let you know if there are certain steps you can take to help your loved one improve their health and well-being.
Plan out your visits.
Keeping in touch through calling and texting is important when you’re a long-distance caregiver, but it’s also important to see them face-to-face. Plan to visit them as much as you can. That way, you can see for yourself how your loved one is doing, which is more valuable than simply hearing it over the phone.
Don’t just make your visits about your loved one’s health. Try to schedule activities that will be fun and relaxing. For example, you could plan a dinner-and-movie night, go shopping, take a short road trip, or do anything else that helps both of you unwind and enjoy time together. These types of activities allow for memories to be made and for bonds to be strengthened.
Talk to neighbors or friends nearby.
Along with staying in touch with your loved one’s healthcare team, try to find friends or other family members that live near them. This can help you get the most realistic sense of how your loved one is doing because, though they mean well, they might sometimes exaggerate how great or terrible they are feeling. And if a friend or family member finds that there’s an issue, they can contact you immediately.
Get them any necessary devices.
Your loved one will need a cell phone, but there are other devices that can prove useful. For instance, consider getting a medical alert system so that emergency services can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Also, look into smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, which can act as a personal assistant with a variety of tasks (e.g., medication reminders, making phone calls, getting weather updates).
It’s not easy being a long-distance caregiver, but these tips can help you fulfill your role while relieving you of some of the stress. Be sure to stay in touch with your loved one and their healthcare team, schedule regular visits, see if there are other people close by that could keep an eye on your loved one, and look into devices that could help. Most importantly, stay open to other ways that you can help your loved one live their best life.
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