Long Distance Caregiving
It happens all the time. Your parents or elderly loved ones can no longer complete daily living activities on their own. You cannot be there daily because you do not live close yet someone needs to be responsible for seeing to their care. Hiring a home care agency like Upstate Home Care Solutions is the natural next step especially if there is not family in the area. But, you still need to coordinate that service. We are accustomed to working with long distance care coordinators and understand how it can be difficult both emotionally and logistically. Below are some tips on how to manage the caregiving relationship from a distance.
Having proper access to information and the legal authority to make decisions is important for all primary caregivers, but it’s even more so for those handling care from a distance. Example: You’ll need signed documents permitting doctors to share information with you. Much of the arranging is best handled in person when you can work with your loved one to locate, organize and fill out the necessary paperwork.
There are plenty of important tasks that can be handled remotely, such as paying bills, ordering prescriptions and coordinating team members. You will need others to be your eyes and ears. It’s natural for long-distance caregivers to feel guilty about delegating certain jobs, but you simply cannot do it all.
- Start the discussion. It’s often difficult to discuss finances, but you need to get the lay of the land. You and your loved one will need to strategize over how to pay for health care costs and other everyday expenses. Consider how much is on hand in savings and investments, the size of major payments like housing and whether they have long-term care insurance.
- Request access to information. Ask whether your loved one can sign the forms or make the calls necessary to give doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies permission to share information with you or another trusted family member. Don’t forget things like banks and utilities.
- Address legal issues. If your loved one hasn’t already designated a durable power of attorney for health care and financial decisions, ask whether she’d like you or someone else she unequivocally trusts to take on that crucial role. If there’s no power of attorney and they become physically or cognitively unable to choose one, the courts will have to step in.
- Know emergency basics. You need to know how you or someone else can get into the home in an urgent situation. Is an extra set of keys (including car keys) stashed somewhere? Is there a burglar alarm code? Keep a friendly neighbor’s phone number handy, and ask the neighbor to do the same with yours.
- Look into workplace leave policies. You may be eligible for time off from work for caregiving under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Can you work remotely when they leave town for a caregiving visit?
- Build your team. Beyond medical professionals and nonmedical caregivers, reach out to friends, family and community to form a network of helpers. Remember, to include your loved one as part of the team.
- Determine roles. Ask what tasks team members are willing and able to do. A neighbor might be happy to cut the lawn, while another family member might volunteer to drive to doctor’s appointments. An agency, like us, may be your overnight care or fill in a few days a week.
- Keep a roster. Compile and keep up to date a list of contact info for everyone, including hired helpers, and be sure they know how to reach you. Communication between team members is key to a successful caregiving team.