If you are responsible for caring for a loved one who lives out-of-state, you are likely aware of the unique demands associated with long distance caregiving. The geographic distance makes the typical responsibilities that caregivers undertake – arranging for transportation and meals, scheduling medical appointments, and handling finances – more complicated and time-consuming.
Emergencies, such as a natural disaster or an unexpected trip to the ER, add an additional layer of complexity for long-distance caregivers. Discover strategies for coping with emergencies and tips for how to prepare, especially for long-distance caregivers, in this blog from The Bristal.
Natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, and earthquakes are a reality for many living in the United States. In addition to causing property damage, natural disasters also have the potential to disrupt businesses and public services that many older adults rely on.
Difficulty communicating with those who have been affected by a natural disaster isn’t uncommon. Depending on the severity of the event, it could take a few hours to several days to restore internet and phone service. Not being able to contact a loved one after a natural disaster is understandably distressing – even more so, when it is an older adult who is living alone.
Traveling to visit your loved one after a natural disaster may also pose a challenge. Debris and damage to roads may take several days to clear and/or repair. Moreover, airports will likely be busier than usual, making it difficult to find a flight.
Proper planning can do much to alleviate the stress that comes with natural disasters. Following are general tips that long-distance caregivers may find helpful in preparing for an emergency:
- Be informed. Bookmark the state and county website for where your loved one lives. Take a moment to review the county’s emergency response plans, which should include information on evacuation routes and resources for older adults and other vulnerable populations.
- Stay updated. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are great resources that can provide real-time updates from emergency responders, as well as friends you might have in the area. The social media handles for those coordinating emergency response efforts should be listed on either county or state government websites.
- Make a plan. If you loved one lives in an area prone to natural disasters, discuss possible responses to emergencies with them and decide what factors will determine sheltering in place versus evacuation. Make sure your loved one has a list of local emergency contacts available.
- Be prepared. Make sure your loved one has a travel bag that includes at least a week’s supply of medication, a list of current medical conditions, and copies of their health insurance information. A supply of water and food items that don’t need to be heated are also good to have on hand.
Older adults are at an increased risk for health concerns that might result in a visit to the emergency room including heart attacks, strokes, falls, or drug interactions. Data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey showed that 44 out of 100 seniors over the age of 70 have visited an emergency room. For seniors over the age of 80, the rate increased to 67 out of 100.
For long-distance caregivers, a loved one’s unexpected trip to the emergency room poses a few additional challenges. Communicating with medical personnel and planning for in-home healthcare, as well as arranging for travel need to be addressed.
There are a few things long-distance caregivers can do to prepare for an unexpected emergency room visit.
- Obtain permission. If your loved one is taken to the emergency room, obtaining information about their condition is likely your first priority. The rules governing access to private healthcare information are complex, which may make it difficult to obtain information if you don’t have permission from your loved one. If you are concerned about being able to discuss your loved one’s health with their medical team, you may want to consider a Medical Power of Attorney, which will allow you to receive information on their condition and make decisions on their behalf. It is important to note that a Medical Power of Attorney can only be granted if your loved one has been deemed mentally competent.
- Be organized. Make sure you have a current list of your loved one’s medications and health conditions ready to share. Your loved one will likely need extra help after they are released from the hospital. Having a group of friends who can help or the contact information for home healthcare agencies can make the transition a bit smoother.
- Travel arrangements. Depending on the geographic distance between you and your loved one, you may need to book a flight. Most airlines offer medical emergency fares; however, availability is limited, and you will need to call the airline to book your flight.
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With over 20 communities throughout Long Island, Manhattan, Westchester County, and northern New Jersey, The Bristal offers luxury senior living while providing peace-of-mind to seniors and their families. To find a location that is close to you, visit our community page.