5 Steps to Long-Distance Caregiving
7 minutes read
Step 2: Create a team.
Step 1: Establish your communication flow.
First and foremost, setting aside time to talk and establishing an open line of communication with your loved one, their home (or facility) caregivers, and their healthcare team is vital moving forward (see more in Step 2). You will want to gather certain key information about the financial, legal, and healthcare related documents and affairs in order to best help provide assistance from long-distance. Use the checklist below to keep track of the key information you need to discuss with your loved one, to see if these are right for you. If you move forward with any of these decisions, try to coordinate all the paperwork involved during a planned visit.
- [ ] Permission for doctors/hospitals/insurers to share information
- [ ] Being placed on bills/utilities
- [ ] Durable power of attorney for health care and financial decisions
Below are additional items that it is important to talk to your loved one about, to be on the same page.
- [ ] The money conversation: Consider long-term care insurance, and current payments, including health care expenses, housing, and savings and investments.
- [ ] Emergency situations: Talk to your loved one about what would happen in an emergency. Is there a security system? Is there a fall alarm? A neighbor may be able to help out if you can exchange numbers by being your eyes and ears long distance.
Step 2: Create a team.
While you may be able to handle some tasks remotely for your loved one, like paying bills, it is important to have a team that can care for the other needs of your loved one. In order to organize a team of people to meet your loved one’s needs, you must build your team, help assign roles, and keep track of what each team member is helping with.
- Build your team – Assess in what capacity other family members, neighbors, friends, and community groups might be able to help.
- Help assign roles – Ask what tasks each member is willing to do (e.g., cooking meals, or cleaning the house).
- Keep track of where each member is helping – This is where an organizational tool like a planner or scheduler comes in, or even an excel spreadsheet of everyone’s roles, in order to help keep in contact with those who are helping your loved one on a daily basis.
After you have secured a team, make use of technology to establish the best way for you to communicate with your loved one and their care team. This could be through group email, or apps like GroupMe, Facetime, Skype, or Zoom. Regardless of what you choose, take advantage of these tools to connect with your loved and learn valuable information from their care team.
Step 3: Identify resources and access them.
The best place to start to look for resources, including care coordination, caregiver support, and in-home support services is through internet sources like the Area Agency on Aging or the Eldercare Locator. Another option is to hire a local coordinator, who personally helps with caregiving logistics in the local area of the loved one. The advantage of this is that the coordinator is usually a nurse or social worker, who is trained to work in difficult family dynamics. The financial downside is that this service can cost $50-$200/hr, which is not covered by Medicare. Ultimately, these options lead to more sources and help and offer an abundance of options when it comes to assistance, coordination, and housing.
For reference, below is a breakdown of the basic types of elderly housing:
- Senior living communities – This is 24/7 access to care assistance with activities, group mingling, and activities of daily living accounted for in a safe but relatively private environment.
- In-home care – This can be full or part time, but it can help provide needed support in your loved one’s residence for daily activities.
- Nursing home – This is 24/7 care and activities of daily living accounted for, with residents often sharing the same room, and often in need of higher care levels.
- Dementia care facilities – These provide housing and care to the elderly living with dementia, providing activities of daily living as needed, and social support.
Step 4: Stay connected.
Having a family meeting with your loved one and anyone else involved in their care within the family (siblings, uncles, aunts, etc.) can give everyone a chance to get on the same page. This can be over zoom, skype, or other apps but the important part is that the loved one is involved.
Other ways to stay connected in your loved one’s care is to connect by video or phone with their doctors or senior living community staff to stay up to date on any concerns. Additionally, if anyone else is peripherally involved in their care, like a neighbor who checks in every once in a while, meeting with them will give you insight into how your family member is doing.
Step 5: Plan times to visit and reassess needs.
One important thing you can do to streamline care and visiting is to coordinate visits with your loved one’s PCP, specialists, and as many other healthcare provider appointments as possible. Seeing the provider face to face to check in with your loved one can remove a great amount of stress. Regardless, enjoy your time with your loved one by engaging with them in things they love to do or you both love in common. Whether this is baking, going to the movies, resting and relaxing, or having a dinner date together, this time is special for you and your loved one to connect. You can take the opportunity at your visit to reassess the level of care your loved one is receiving and the level of care they are perceivably needing, making adjustments by starting from step 1 of this list again.