A 2015 study by the National Alliance of Caregiving stated that over 34 million adults in the US provide caregiving services to seniors. Approximately 85% provide care for an aging loved one. Caregiving can include a variety of tasks to support aging adults in daily activities.
Family caregiving can be a huge responsibility especially if you have a career and your own children. It could be possible to check in more often if you live close to your family or relatives. But what do you, as a family caregiver, when you live far away from your aging loved ones?
If you are a long distance family caregiver, you are not alone. According to the National Alliance of Caregiving, approximately 5 million caregivers live far away from their family members. Although it poses many challenges, there are certain measures you can take to make life easier for yourself and your care recipient.
Here are 5 main steps to help you overcome the challenges of long distance family caregiving and provide your aging parent/ loved one the comfort and support they deserve:
1. Educate yourself
The first and most important step to help a smooth caregiving process is to educate yourself. As a caregiver, it is your duty to be up to date with the latest health and medical needs of the person you are caring for. This can help you get more organized and avoid confusion regarding the needs of your loved one. It can also update your knowledge on resources you might need to provide the best caregiving from a distance. A major advantage is that it builds trust and strengthens your relationship with your loved one.
2. Stay connected
Long distance caregiving is not as complex as it seems to be, if you make sure that you stay in touch with your aging family member. Ensure that you make regular phone/ video calls with them and stay up to date with their health and progress. If you live a few hours away, try making visits whenever possible. Being in touch will make them feel safer and more confident. This will help them deal with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues.
3. Ensure a safe and healthy living environment
As a caregiver, you should ensure a safe and healthy environment for your loved one, especially if they live alone. With a few modifications in technology like automatic pill reminders/ dispensers and some necessary installations like grab bars and slip resistant shower mats, you can make their home a perfectly safe, healthy and comfortable environment for them. Being in the comfort of their own homes will also make them feel happier and peaceful. Make sure they are spending enough quality time with their friends or doing things they like. This will keep them busy, mentally stimulated and make them more social, resulting in a healthy lifestyle.
4. Have an emergency plan
Since you are not always physically present to look after your loved one, you should have an emergency plan in place. Make sure you have all necessary information with you, including their doctor’s and neighbor’s contact number along with important financial and legal documents. In case an emergency occurs, getting all this information together on the spot can be time consuming and very stressful, resulting in harming you or your family member.
5. Use all your resources
When you live away from your family members, it is natural to worry about their health and safety. This is why you need to use all your resources to give yourself and your aging loved ones peace of mind. You can request a friend or neighbor to check in on your loved ones regularly and report back to you. This will let you know that they are safe and happy and reduce your stress. It will make your family members feel connected and cared for. You could also consider professional care services to ensure your loved ones are not being deprived of medication/ healthcare if needed. There are a number of mobile apps to help you place orders and have them delivered, so that your aging loved ones need not step out for grocery and essentials.
Distance can definitely be a challenging factor when it comes to caring for an elderly loved one. In spite of the challenges, long distance caregiving can be extremely satisfying and rewarding, knowing that your loved ones are getting the assistance they need.
Being a long distance family caregiver is not easy, but with the right planning, resources, technology and focusing on the positive, you can ensure that your aging loved ones remain independent and happy, even from far away.