With the continued aging of the population and the desire many people have to age in their own home, long-distance caregiving is becoming more important.
Many people think of caregiving as something that must be done day in and day out alongside the aging individual. In fact, many people act as caregivers while living an hour or more away from their loved one.
Long distance caregivers can be a huge benefit to caregivers living nearby.
How Can Long Distance Family Caregivers Help From Afar?
You may wonder how much help anyone can possibly be as long distance caregivers. Providing help for caregivers who are there day in and day out is beneficial to both your loved one and the caregiver. Spending time hunting down resources for family caregivers, looking for ways to provide financial help for caregivers, and providing a listening ear are all valuable jobs.
Don’t ever underestimate the value your help brings to the situation. There are many things you can do to help your loved one stay safe and healthy in their home, and there are many things you can do to ease the burden on individuals helping who live closer to your loved one.
What Do Family Caregivers Provide?
Some of the things you can do to provide help for family caregivers include arranging for professional in-home services, from healthcare to cooking and cleaning. You can handle the financial details that your loved one may no longer be able to keep up with, such as paying bills.
You can do preliminary research on area skilled nursing homes or assisted living facilities, so if the situation changes, you have some contacts already in place. You can also make it your job to coordinate healthcare information, researching health issues, navigating insurance, and keeping track of appointments. You may also want to be sure to pass updates along to friends and family members on a regular basis.
You can be available to lend a supportive ear to provide help for family caregivers. Caretaking is both physically and mentally draining, and having someone to talk to can give the primary caregiver the support needed to continue to perform the job. You can also make arrangements to provide respite care for your loved one, visiting at certain times to give the primary caregiver a break.
There is no one perfect job for the long-distance caregiver. What you do to help depends on what is needed by your loved one, what care they currently have in place, and what the outlook for their health is. Someone recovering from a hip replacement who is in generally good health will have very different needs than someone experiencing advanced symptoms of dementia.
How can I stay up-to-date with what my senior loved one needs?
One way to know what you can do, and make sure you are doing something that helps, is to ask the primary caregiver. Be upfront about your time and financial constraints, and let them know what skills and experience you can offer.
Never underestimate the importance of regular visits. Sometimes the main caregiver, who sees your loved one on a daily basis, may not notice small changes. Regular visits allow you to notice declines before they become worrisome.
While many people joke about learning from “Dr. Google,” it isn’t a bad idea. As long as you stick to reputable websites, such as government or university sites, you can learn a lot about any medical condition. It is important to have an understanding of your loved one’s issues. You should know what the outlook is, what treatments are considered standard, and possible complications to be on the lookout for.
Tips for Long Distance Family Caregivers
It is a good idea to seek written permission to receive financial and medical information on your loved one. Written permission is required to stay in compliance with federal HIPAA rules. This permission allows all healthcare providers to discuss your loved one’s condition with you freely.
You can also spend a little time putting together a healthcare notebook. This notebook should contain all the information relevant to your loved one’s care. It should include not only information about their condition, but important contact numbers, insurance information, and any other pertinent information.
Include resources for family caregivers, such as respite programs, meal delivery, and other helpful information. Even if your loved one doesn’t require those services yet, you will have them at your fingertips when needed. Keep a copy for yourself, and make sure others involved in your loved one’s care have a copy as well. Don’t forget to keep the notebook updated.
Helping When You Are There
As a long distance caregiver, it can be difficult to make the transition to in-person help when you visit. Help for caregivers doesn’t often come with training, it is a learn on the job process. During times when you are available to be hands-on, there are a variety of ways you can ease the burden on the full time caregiver and your loved one.
The first step is to ask what they need. Support for family caregivers means providing the help as needed, not what you think is best. So many times it is tempting to sweep in and try to make up for lost time. As a long distance caregiver, you need to respect the wishes of the people who are doing the day to day work. Let them know you want to help ease their burden.
If you can provide respite for family caregivers, you can ease the day to day stress immensely. Find out what they actually want you to do and what they need. Some people may be hesitant to ask, so have some ideas in mind and suggestions to make, but be ready to listen first.
When you are in caregiving mode it can be difficult to remember that this is an actual person whom you have a preexisting relationship with. Don’t be so overwhelmed trying to care for the person that you neglect sitting with them and visiting, catching up, working a puzzle or taking them for a drive.
Don’t underestimate the toll long distance caregiving can have. Support for family caregivers is important whether they are the day to day workers or long distance providers. You may feel guilty complaining about, or even acknowledging, the stress caused by caregiving when you live far away, but doing so puts you at risk of burnout. Find someone nearby who you can talk to about concerns, worries or frustrations. Dedicate a little time each day to self-care, whether it is taking a walk, reading, or just relaxing in front of the television.
If your loved one’s health declines while you are far away, see if you can schedule a conference call with healthcare providers and other caregivers. This ensures everyone is on the same page and has the same information to work with. In truth, relaying information from person to person and making sure everyone involved with the care of your loved one can be one of the most stressful parts of caregiving.
Another stressful part of caregiving, which many people hesitate to talk about, is financial difficulties. Aging is expensive, there is no doubt about that. Paying for caregiving is pricey. Financial help for caregivers is available if you know where to look.
If a family member is doing the care, they may have to quit other employment or cut back hours to provide care. Even in a situation where they were not previously working, most family members would want to compensate the caregiver for their time and effort.
As a long-distance caregiver, you can help by seeking out methods to receive financial help for your loved one. Government help for caregivers provides several options. The Medicaid Cash and Counseling program provides compensation for caregivers of individuals with a chronic condition or disability who are eligible for Medicaid. If your loved one was a veteran, they may be eligible for benefits that pay for in-home and respite care.
Government help for caregivers doesn’t always include financial reimbursement. If you want to take a more active role in caregiving, and you work for an employer with at least 50 employees, you may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one. If you can do this, it is a great opportunity to provide some respite for family caregivers. Sometimes a short break is all that is needed to ease the burden on the day to day provider.