Long-distance caregiving

Tips for making it work

Many caregivers don’t live near their aging parents, creating special challenges to look after them and their care. Here are a few tips to make the task a little more manageable:

  • Ask family and friends for help. If you have siblings or other family members who can help, get them together by phone or in person to talk about what needs to be done and how to divide up the tasks. You may want to designate someone who lives closer as power of attorney (a lawyer can help you set that up). Perhaps one of your loved one’s friends or neighbors would regularly check on your loved one.
  • Gather all the information in one place. Gather (in a folder or binder) all of the individual’s medical records, legal, insurance and financial papers, will, contact numbers, account numbers and the all–important Social Security number.
  • Invest in a personal alarm for your loved one. Because you can’t respond quickly in an emergency, an electronic alert system (it comes as a necklace or wristband) will enable your loved one to get help immediately.
  • Group medical appointments together. If it’s feasible, schedule all medical appointments for a time when you’ll be with your loved one.
  • Check into local resources. Look into services that can deliver meals, provide transportation or take care of some housework/personal chores.
  • Make sure you’re OK’d for information sharing. If someone else is designated as power of attorney, make sure you’re added as an authorized representative for all doctors’ offices, etc. This way, you can set up appointments, follow up on tests, reorder medications and handle other tasks.
  • Stay in touch. Depending on your loved one’s ability to communicate, a daily phone call, email or text message will help you stay connected and let your loved one know he or she is always “top of mind.” Or if your loved one uses a computer, consider using Skype, which enables real-time visits.

No, it’s not easy being a long-distance care provider, and you won’t be able to monitor everything. But having a plan will make you feel better about the situation and the safety of your loved one.