Tips For Long Distance Caregivers

Caregivers
must be available for their loved ones at varying times of the day. If there is
an emergency and the caregiver is needed promptly, it would be convenient for a
caregiver that lives 20 minutes or less away. The faster a caregiver can
arrive, the quicker an issue will be resolved. But what about caregivers that
aren’t in the neighborhood?

They’re called long-distance caregivers, and according to
the National Institute on Aging, there are approximately seven million of them,
mostly caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away. Historically,
caregivers have been primarily mid-life, working women who have other family
responsibilities. However, more and more men are becoming caregivers, about 40
percent. Long-distance caregiving involves a variety of tasks, including
helping manage the money to arranging for in-home care, providing respite care
for a primary caregiver or helping a parent move to a new home or facility.
Many act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the
confusing maze of home health aides, insurance benefits and durable medical equipment.

And caregiving is often a long-term situation. What begins
as a monthly trip to check on mom may turn into a larger project to move her to
a nursing facility close to her caregiver’s home. Here are some key steps for
long-distance caregivers, according to the National Institute of Aging:

  • Seek
    out help from people in the community: the next-door neighbor, an old
    friend or the doctor. Call them, inform them of your loved one’s situation
    and make sure they know how to reach you.
  • Take
    steps to identify options to help the primary caregiver. He or she may not
    need the help now, but being prepared can help in case of a crisis.
  • Try to
    find a directory of senior resources and services by checking with a
    library or senior center for lists of resources. Get several copies, one
    for yourself and one for the primary caregiver.
  • Gather
    a list of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Get doses and
    schedules. This information is essential in a medical emergency. Update it
    regularly.
  • When
    you visit, go through the house looking for possible hazards (such as
    loose rugs, poor lighting, unsafe clutter) and safety concerns (such as
    grab bars needed in the bathroom). Stay for a weekend or week and help
    make needed improvements.
  • Find
    out if your parent has an advance directive stating his or her health care
    treatment preferences. If not, talk about setting one up. If so, make sure
    you have a copy and you know where a copy is kept. You might want to make
    sure the primary caregiver has a copy, and the doctor should also have a
    copy for medical records.
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