Caring for a loved one can be a daunting task. It can be even more difficult when you live out of town. If you are a long-distance caregiver, it is very important to be prepared and have a plan in case your loved one requires additional support in your absence. Whether your loved one may need additional help at home or need to move to a safer environment, they may not always welcome this lifestyle change.
Oftentimes people can feel helpless or guilty when they are far from a loved one in need, but there are still things you can do from a distance to help and to organize yourself ahead of time.
Know You Loved One's Conditions
- Ask your loved one and his or her doctor what kind of health concerns they have and how they would like to address these concerns. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through and what the best steps are for improving the situation.
- Know your loved one's medications and diet. Keep a list of specific diet needs and medications.
Make the Most of Your Visits
- Have an honest conversation with your loved one about the type of care they require, and be conscious of the amount of independence your loved one wants and needs
- Research the health care options available (in-home care, retirement living, Alzheimer's and dementia care and skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers)
- Ask your loved one about a living will and work with his or her physician to make these legal decisions ahead of time
- Begin to have discussions regarding designation of the financial and health care power of attorney
- Know where important documents are (and make copies for yourself if appropriate)
- Make sure the home is a safe environment
- Add grab bars to the bathrooms and non-slip pads to the shower or tub
- Arrange the furniture so there are no obstacles for your loved one
- Add railings to both sides of the stairwells
- Make sure the rooms are well-lit, especially areas that are potentially dangerous like the kitchen cooking areas
- Remove any area rugs or other items that may cause your loved one to trip and fall
Set up a Support Group
- Ask local family and friends to check on your loved one periodically
- Call local churches or volunteer groups to inquire about the possibility of meal delivery or transportation opportunities
- Make a list of important contact numbers including doctors, family and friends that live close to your loved one, their insurance company and important account numbers
- Review the options before moving your loved one out of their home, and make sure they are part of the decision and the move process
Being a primary caregiver, even when you live far away, means that you are a primary decision maker too. Be prepared to make decisions of all kinds, whether it is for your loved one's health, finances, personal safety or even living arrangements. These decisions will not be easy at times but with some preparation and communication, you can alleviate some of the stress and help make the right decision for your loved one.