Serving as a long distance caregiver for a family member who lives more than an hour away can present many difficulties. Although many family home caregivers experience guilt and anxiety, those who are trying to offer and coordinate care from a distance may not only experience these more acutely, but may also confront additional difficulties in trying to provide care. Taking steps to prevent and manage emergencies can help ease the burden of responsibility on long distance caregivers.
Since you cannot always be there, in the event of a life-threatening emergency, you will not be able to respond in person to the situation. Thus, having other support systems in place locally is critical.
One such option is having an electronic alert system in place. There are many devices today that rely on technology to help keep seniors and those with disabilities stay safe when no one is with them. Most devices allow the senior to activate it in case of an emergency, but many are also triggered when the device senses that the person wearing it has fallen and a call center is notified in order to send help. Increasingly, such devices are also coming with technology that includes a Global Positioning System (GPS) that can help keep tabs on a senior’s location, especially for seniors with dementia who may wander or get lost while out. These types of devices can help ease the anxiety of a long distance caregiver or any caregiver who is not at the senior’s home at all times.
Another key to developing local support is identifying local resources. Senior centers, religious institutions and community and civic organizations may be able to help by delivering meals, providing local transportation, making occasional home visits or providing other in home care services. For many long distance caregivers, working with a local geriatric care manager who can help identify resources and offer or monitor in home care services can help ease the family caregiver burden. A professional home care agency can provide even more extensive senior at home care services including meal preparation, housekeeping, grocery shopping and personal hygiene or other personal care services.
In addition to developing local resources, the other key to managing long distance care is making the most of the time you are in the local area. Try to make sure medical appointments are scheduled at a time you will be in the area. Make sure your schedule will allow time for you to connect with others who are providing care to your loved one so you can get updates and, ideally, witness some of the interaction between your loved one and their local caregivers. Taking time to get to know your loved one’s neighbors or others in the community can expand your pool of local support
There are several other good practices to help manage care from afar. Make sure to have your loved one sign releases so that their doctors can keep you informed when you are away. Try to identify a neighbor or other person who lives close by who can stop by and check in on your loved one in the event you are having trouble getting a hold of them. Set up regular methods and times of communication not only to give you peace of mind, but also to help your loved one know that you remember them and ease their sense of isolation.