Senior on computer and writing

How To Be a Long-Distance Caregiver To An Aging Parent

Long-distance caregiving comes with its own unique challenges, whether you live an hour, a state line or even an entire continent away. As a caregiver for a parent, you're responsible for the decisions that impact both their life and your own. The stress of this responsibility can be high, along with the guilt of feeling like there's more you could do. Recent studies have shown that long-distance caregiving can mean spending an average of nearly $12,000 each year in care-related expenses. Yet despite the distance, however great it may be, you can still provide excellent support and compassion to ensure your loved ones enjoy a high quality of life.

Preparation is the key for this next stage of life, both for you and your loved one. The following long-distance caregiving tips are meant to help make the transition into the role of caregiver for a parent a little easier.

Understand What's Possible

When you think of caregiving from a distance, your mind may initially go to all the things you can't do, like be there right away in case of an emergency or even lend a hand with everyday activities. But here are some things you can do as a long-distance caregiver for an elderly parent:

  • Pay bills and manage finances
  • Arrange for in-home care
  • Locate assisted living or skilled nursing communities
  • Provide emotional support to a primary caregiver
  • Research health problems or medicines
  • Help navigate and clarify insurance benefits and claims
  • Keep family and friends up to date
  • Ensure paperwork is in order in case of an emergency
  • Make sure your loved one's home is safe for their needs
  • Compile a list of local resources for your loved one

Do Your Homework

When you know as much as you possibly can about your loved one's medical history, current condition, and the medications they may be taking on a regular basis, you're already ahead of the curve. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, you can receive your loved one's medical and financial information. These vital documents will be immensely helpful to doctors and other care providers, saving them the time and trouble of having to track down medical records before or during appointments. Other ways to make medical visits easier include:

  • Making a list of questions for doctors
  • Receiving or taking detailed notes from the appointment
  • Sharing this information with another trusted family member, should you be unavailable to make a decision in the future
  • Documenting all medicines and dietary supplements your loved one is taking, both prescription and over-the-counter, along with the dosage and schedule
  • Letting your loved one answer as many of the doctor's questions as possible

Make the most of your time together

This advice goes without saying whenever spending time with a loved one, but especially so if you're caregiving from a distance. It's important to find out what he or she wants to do while you're together, and equally important to take care of all that needs to be done in the amount of time you have. Start off by handling whatever caregiving responsibilities need immediate attention, including:

  • Doctor's visits
  • Wellness checks
  • Grocery shopping
  • Tasks around the house
  • Seasonal outside maintenance

After that's all taken care of, enjoy some much-needed quality time together and build more memories for both of you by doing simple things like:

  • Playing cards
  • Taking a walk or a drive
  • Watching or going to a movie
  • Looking at old family photos
  • Listening to their favorite music

Stay Connected When You're Apart

Arguably, the hardest part of long-distance caregiving is the distance itself. Thankfully, technology now provides an abundance of ways for you to stay in touch with your loved one. But beyond the regular check-in conversations, it's important to stay connected to everyone involved with caring for your loved one. You'll quickly learn that a reliable contact list will be your best tool for staying in the know on all things related to your loved one. Contacts should include any nearby family and friends, doctors and physicians, social workers, or anyone else who may be able to provide updates and help make decisions. Setting up conference calls with doctors or the assisted living or skilled nursing staff so everyone can be in the same conversation is a great way to ensure all parties involved are up to date about health and progress. And obviously, keep in close contact via phone calls and emails. They may seem like simple gestures, but they go a long way toward maintaining a strong relationship with seniors.

If you've found these long-distance caregiving tips useful, consider learning more about Life Care Services®, owners and operators of senior living communities offering a variety of care levels all across the country. Many of our communities can help provide long-distance caregiver support so you can find invaluable peace of mind knowing your loved one is well cared for. To learn more about how we can help you care for your loved one and yourself, use our location tool.