Many of us play various roles in life, and one role that is extremely common is that of being a caregiver. About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult over the age of 50 in the last 12 months, according to AARP’s 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. Report. Being a caregiver can be stressful and overwhelming at times, however, caregiving for a loved one who doesn’t live in the same city as you comes with its own set of challenges. The good news is if you’re a long-distance caregiver there are still ways you can be involved in the care of your loved one without living nearby.
Oftentimes, there are two main roles long-distance caregivers are involved in. The first is being an information gatherer and the second is coordinating services. Fortunately, there are resources available to long-distance caregivers to help with both.
Whether you’re gathering information or coordinating services, I recommend using online resources. Using tools like online bill pay help you manage finances from any location and give you one less thing to worry about. You can also use tools like online video chat to stay in touch with loved ones and on-site caregivers. Video calls provide an easy way to physically see how your loved one is doing and many video chat tools are free and easy to use. Using wearable technology can also help monitor your loved one’s health from afar through mobile apps and online dashboards. Wearable devices are now being used to track things like blood pressure, heart rate, sleep quality and more.
Secondly, you should gather your loved one’s financial documents and review them. This includes an income tax statement, which will give you a clear financial picture. I also advise gathering and reading through estate planning documents and going over power of attorney information. Understanding the financial situation makes it easier to evaluate the care options available to you.
If you’re caregiving long-distance, it’s important to maintain consistent and clear communication. By not living in the same city, it can be hard to attend doctor’s appointments or have face-to-face discussions with people providing care. It’s important to regularly talk with family members, in-home or assisted living staff and doctors. I already mentioned the perks of video calls but having regular phone calls or even emailing works – as long as there is frequent communication. Staying in touch with family and friends also helps you feel connected and provides everyone with additional information.
Oftentimes, there are local resources available to help long-distance caregivers. You may not know about the resources available to you if you live outside of the area, so I recommend researching non-profit organizations and government agencies in your loved one’s community. You can also ask doctor’s offices or assisted living staff about the local organizations they work with to get recommendations.
My last piece of advice for long-distance caregivers may be the most important, and that is to ask for help when you need it. You may feel frustrated at times that you’re not able to physically be with your loved one on a daily basis. It’s important to consider your limits and ask yourself what you can take on both mentally and financially. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the resources available to you or other family members. To provide the best care for your loved one, you also need to take care of yourself.
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