In our globalized world, it’s not unusual for your work or business to be far away from your family, especially your parents. However, troubling signs that your parents are aging may mean they need more help and attention from you. But how do you do this if you live in another state or country? Whether you live an hour’s drive away, in another state, or another country, caregiving remotely has its challenges.
How to Prepare for Remote Caregiving
It happens gradually as your parents show signs of age, and their health begins to decline. You are no longer the devoted child but have become a long-distance caregiver. You may be facing a new world of responsibilities you are not prepared for. There isn’t one way to be a remote caregiver; we each have to deal with our situations.
At the very least, you can expect your parental caregiving role to include two key functions: gathering information and coordinating services. This means consulting your parents, doing research online, and getting in touch with potential service providers. You can expect to spend some time on the phone to arrange services and care. And you should plan to travel to see them more frequently.
Gather Critical Information in One Place
It’s best to be proactive and have your parents give you information on how to locate their important papers and records. It’s an excellent time to keep a list of all their account numbers, logins, and passwords. That way, if a crisis should occur, such as a stroke, you will have all the information you need. If the crisis occurs before you have this info, you can still get it, but it may be a little more complicated.
The Family Caregiver Alliance is a great resource. I recommend checking out Where to Find My Important Papers and download the form to help you get organized. The form itemizes all critical information and helps you keep track of where they are.
Legal Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Surrogate
No one likes to talk about these things. I know I didn’t. But when my mom had her mini-stroke, I had to step in. And luckily, my mom was ultimately on board with it. Legal documents such as Durable Powers of Attorney for Asset Management and Health Care should be on file before a health crisis occurs. You may have to make decisions for your parents when they can’t, so be sure you know their wishes. And, in stressful situations, it helps to have a second set of eyes and ears to take in information.
Keep a Care Notebook
To keep everything in order, put together a care notebook with all your parent’s information. Be sure your care notebook contains essential numbers such as doctors, lawyers, and current information on all your parent’s prescriptions. Not only will this keep you organized, but it can also prevent burnout.
If you have a paid caregiver helping with your parent’s care, they should also keep a notebook or record of vital signs, medication administration, and other critical mental and physical health status information.
Be Sure to Take Care of Yourself
It’s a lot, and even more stressful when you are doing it remotely. You may feel overwhelmed with information and responsibility. I know, I’ve been there. Understand that self-care is important for caregivers. When you do feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to call a friend or professional. An objective advisor who knows the ins and outs of Medicare and Medicaid can help you sort through health care coverage and eligibility.
A social worker or geriatric care manager can help you and your family develop a care plan or handle family dissension. The goal is to put together a plan that plays to everyone’s strengths—having an objective person to help can ease tensions.
Tips to Get Started
Communicate – involve the one who needs care in any decision making as much as possible. Listen to their wishes and respect their values.
Educate yourself – know what services are available; they may be different in different areas, so do your research.
Take care of yourself – caregiving, even remotely, is stressful. Create your support network of family, friends, and professionals. Doing it alone is not healthy for you or your parents.
Needs will change – know that your parent’s care needs will change over time. Plan so you can make well-thought-out and informed decisions.
Your role as long-distance caregiver is going to be stressful. You may feel overwhelmed and isolated. Remember to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of your parents.