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Long Distance Caregiving

Today we live in a very mobile society. People move because of job relocation, a desire to live in more agreeable climate, amongst other reasons. Many older adults have adult children who live in different states or regions of the country.

When if comes to caregiving — it isn’t necessary or always possible for the caregivers to live in the same community as the older adult. If you live an hour or more away from the older adult, you are considered a long distance caregiver.

Families should decide together how to divide the caregiving responsibilities. It is best to have this discussion before the need arises and there is an emergency situation. If possible, include the older adult in this discussion and use his/her wishes as a basis for the plan.

There are many ways a person can help to care for their loved one from long distance.

Organize Paperwork

One task that many long distance caregivers undertake is handling the older adult’s paperwork. The caregiver should create a file to have all the information in one place that can be easily accessed when the time comes. Include the older adult’s full name, birth date and place, a copy of the birth certificate, social security and medicare numbers, financial information such as income tax statements, credit card information, bill payment schedules, living will, durable power of attorney, and where any cash or valuables are stored.

Paperwork needs to be kept in order and up to date.

Research Community Services

The Internet is a tremendous resource for caregivers to research community services and nearby facilities. Compile a list of reputable agencies and facilities in community in case you need help in the future. Include home health agencies, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facitilities. It is important to be prepared in case of an unexpected illness or injury.

Research the community services that are available in the older adult’s community. Is there a nearby senior center to provide meals and social interaction?

Arrange for professional help

The situation may call for an expert to be there with the older adult. From long distance, a person can select a geriatic care manager. The geriatic care manager is a medical professional who can evaluate the older adult’s needs and coordinate care through local resources. The initial evaluation cost varies and may be expensive, but may be a valuable resource.

The long distance caregiver can research geriatic care managers online at http://www.caremanager.org/ and then interview prospects over the phone. Be sure to ask if the care manager is licensed, his/her availablitity, services provided, fees, experience, and references.

Emotional support

Long distance caregivers can provide emotional support the primary caregiver. Family members can help out by calling the older adult regularly.

Handle communication

A long distance caregiver can be the older adult’s communication point person. Making the phone calls to other relatives and friends and sending email updates is another way a person can contribute when they do not live near by.

Make a Visit:

If you live far away, but can make it there for an occasional visit - go prepared. In advance, make a list of possible problem areas to look into during the visit.

As in with any caregiving situation, it is important to know your strengths and to set your limits.

A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News