Millions of Americans serve as caregivers for a senior loved one. While a majority of these provide care in their own home or that of the senior, acting as caretaker from several cities – or several states – away is not uncommon. Although it does have its challenges, it is possible to keep a close eye on an elderly loved one’s health even when you can’t be with them every day.
Keep reading for a few ideas to help you get started on or refine your long-distance caretaking routine.
Get Your Entire Crew Up To Speed
Start by getting your family together to discuss your options. When someone you all love needs monitoring and care, it is best to work together and split the responsibilities. You might, for example, take turns visiting on the weekends or have one person in charge of paying bills and someone else on top of scheduling healthcare appointments.
Of course, this means that you will have to be organized. Make sure that you have copies of all of their important information, such as the name and phone number of their primary healthcare provider. Give your long-distance care team copies of information they need to perform their functions. For example, if you put your sister in charge of paying bills, she will need a debit card or bank routing information.
Make Sure The Senior Can Communicate
It is easy to get carried away delegating duties and taking steps to ensure that you can get in touch with your loved one. However, you also have to make sure they can contact you in case of an emergency. For most seniors, this will mean having an easy-to-use mobile device. Although many people in the 65+ crowd prefer to use a landline, seniors are embracing technology more and more.
Although it’s tempting, don’t rush out and buy the first smartphone you lay your eyes on. Your senior loved one may have an idea of the type of device they would like. This might be an old-fashioned flip phone, like the LG Exalt LTE, or they might feel more comfortable with something a bit more rugged, like the DuraXV by Kryocera. Many cell service providers offer several plan options for seniors. You can add your senior’s phone to your own plan or, if they insist on paying for it themselves, can opt for a prepaid or other budget service contract.
Help Them Help Themselves
Even though you are making more decisions for your loved one, you can also take steps to ensure they have the power to keep themselves healthy to the best of their ability. One way to do this is to schedule a dental appointment to assess their oral health. If their teeth are currently in bad shape, they may be avoiding eating healthy foods because of pain. Help them make a decision on false teeth, such as dentures or dental implants, which can help them reclaim their oral health.
You can also set them up with a gym membership (if they have Medicare, check to see if they have an Advantage plan, which might include access to fitness centers via Silver Sneakers). Contact their local senior center to ask about ridesharing options if they are no longer able to get behind the wheel. Similarly, you might set them up with weekly food delivery services or order groceries through Amazon Fresh, Publix, or Kroger, depending on where they live.
You can’t be there every day, but you can make visiting a priority. This might mean you have to skip a weeklong family vacation and instead spend two long weekends with your senior loved one. Unfortunately, if you live more than just a few hours away, this might mean that you have to fly, which can get pricey fast. According to U.S. News & World Report, however, there are ways to lower your airfare costs, such as flying early in the morning. Likewise, don’t rely on comparison sites alone. Many carriers don’t share their rates, so you might get a better deal booking directly.
Visiting will not always be possible. Because of this, establish a network of people in close proximity to the senior in question. This might be a neighbor, church member, or head of a community organization, such as Meals On Wheels. If your chain of friends and neighbors is unable to reach them by phone or by knocking at their door, you can call the local police department and ask the dispatcher to send a patrolman to do a wellness check.
Caring for an aging loved one is a tough job made even harder by distance. But, if you get your entire family involved, visit as often as possible, make sure you have an open and reciprocal line of communication, and empower them to be at their healthiest best, you can make it work until you can make other arrangements.
Article by Claire Wentz of caringfromafar.com