From providing transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, to helping with household chores, caregivers often need to juggle multiple responsibilities while working and tending to their own family’s needs. Long-distance caregivers have the added challenge of coordinating a team of local helpers (paid and volunteer), receiving timely and accurate information regarding their loved one, and managing communications between various groups. We have curated a handful of helpful tips that long-distance caregivers can use to worker smarter, not harder so they can provide the best care possible.
Practical Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers
Data from a joint study conducted by the AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving shows that 11 percent of caregivers live more than an hour away from their loved one, and that 25 percent of adults who require care live by themselves. Establishing a solid communications strategy and assembling a trusted team of local helpers is essential for long-distance caregivers. Here are some other tips that caregivers can use to make providing care from a distance a little bit easier.
Caregivers are often required to make decisions (e.g., financial, medical, etc.) on behalf of their loved one. Being able to access information related to their health and finances quickly and easily is important – especially if you are a long-distance caregiver. Get started by making a list of the providers you will need to interact with regularly and review with your loved one – updating as needed.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document authorizing you to make medical, legal, and financial decisions on behalf of your loved one. While there are several types of power of attorney, each state has its own rules governing what types are recognized. Trying to coordinate your loved one’s medical care or handle their finances without a power of attorney is nearly impossible. Although difficult to discuss, if your loved one does not have a power of attorney in place, it is important to plan for one sooner, rather than later. An attorney that specializes in elder law is good place to start.
From insurance statements to receipts for medications, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork related to your loved one’s care. While time-consuming, organizing your loved one’s documents will allow you to quickly access information at a moment’s notice. This is especially true for long-distance caregivers who are making calls or sending emails related to their loved one’s care.
An old-fashioned binder with tabbed sections to separate categories works well. Medical and financial statements, insurance policies, and legal documents, as well as a list of contacts and service providers should also be included. A thorough checklist on how to organize your loved one’s information, can be found on the AARP’s website.
While it may be tempting to set statements and receipts aside to handle later, try to develop the habit of touching paperwork only once. A little effort will alleviate a lot of frustration when you are trying to locate a bill or receipt from a year ago!
Not being able to respond quickly in the event of an emergency is a concern for every long-distance caregiver. Identifying family members or friends who can check on your loved one regularly, while lending a hand with chores, or providing transportation to appointments is essential.
There are plenty of technological solutions available to help you stay connected with your loved one, and assist you with coordinating their care. If your loved one is willing to learn – a smartphone or tablet can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family. There are plenty of online tutorials designed to teach older adults how to text and use social media platforms correctly and safely. Video-based communication platforms like FaceTime and Skype are perfect for informal chats, while Zoom is a great platform for planning meetings to discuss your loved one’s care.
Considered smart home technology, voice-activated assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can relieve some of the stress related to caregiving. Yes, they can play music and provide the joke of the day, but savvy caregivers can utilize digital assistants by:
- Setting reminders. If forgetting to take medications is a concern, you can set daily reminders using the Reminders & Alarms feature. You can also create reminders for medical appointments or other activities.
- Creating lists. Voice-activated assistants are perfect if writing or typing has become too difficult for your loved one. Create multiple lists (shopping, etc.) that can be accessed from a connected smartphone.
- Hosting drop-ins and broadcasts. Both Alexa and Google Assistant allow you to connect with other devices – drop-ins for Alexa, broadcast for Google Assistant – making it easy to connect with loved ones.
Plan Your Visits
If you are unable to visit your loved one as frequently as you would like, trying to squeeze as much into every visit is understandable. However, that approach can leave you exhausted and your loved one frustrated. The National Institute on Aging recommends to following tips to help your next visit go as smoothly as possible:
- Talk to your loved one prior to your visit and plan for how you are going to spend your time together.
- If there are tasks – such as shopping trips, doctor visits, or chores around the house – prioritize and concentrate on the most important ones during your visit.
Helpful Tips for Caregivers
For additional caregiver tips and resources, visit The Bristal’s blog.
This blog was originally published on April 1, 2021 and updated in 2023.