When a loved one needs care and you are far away, there are still many things you can do to help with their care from a distance.
- Coordinate services – arranging for in-home care and household help
- Manage finances, medical bills and records
- Provide support to a primary caregiver
To be effective as a long-distance caregiver
Have a family meeting. Gather family and close friends together for a meeting, in person or online. Discuss the situation openly and honestly, and make any decisions that need to be made. Include the person needing care in this decision-making process.
Hire professional help. If needed, hire in-home care professionals to assist with health care, day to day activities and household tasks.
Keep in touch with their health care providers. Ensure that you’re always “in the loop” by speaking to your loved one’s caregivers and doctors regularly. Ensure that any necessary releases to allow doctors to discuss private medical issues with you have been obtained — and keep your own copies on file.
Be organized. Keep notes about your loved one’s medical conditions, finances and legal issues. Keep a file of contact numbers, account numbers, insurance and other important details.
Do your own research. Learn as much as you can about their conditions and treatment. This will help you understand the situation more fully, and how you can best assist. It could also make your communication with your loved one’s doctors more effective.
Ask for help. Keep in touch with your loved one’s friends and neighbours. Ask them to check in on your loved one regularly. Their insight may be valuable in helping you understand their current situation.
Plan for emergencies. Ensure you have both time and money available for unexpected trips to help out that may be needed.
When visiting your loved one
Find out what they need. Before you visit, talk to them about anything you could do to help when you arrive. Do they need to go anywhere? Are there repairs that need to be done?
Look for signs of problems. Check to see how well they are managing daily tasks. Do they need more help? Ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve seen signs of health problems, safety issues or behavioral changes.
Schedule important appointments. Ask if you can accompany them to a doctor’s appointment. This will give you an opportunity to discuss their health and medications, and ask any questions you may have. Ask for their recommendations. If your loved one has a lawyer or financial adviser, you may want to make appointments to see them as well.
Spend quality time. Enjoy your time together while you visit. Watch a movie, play cards or visit family. Simple activities that will allow you both to relax.
Try not to feel guilty about being a long-distance caregiver. It’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough or being available enough, but you’re doing the best you can. It might be helpful to join a caregiver support group where you can learn from others and know that you’re not alone.