The caregiver role can be very stressful, especially for those who live far away from their loved one. If this is a situation you’re all too familiar with, you are not alone. Research suggests that around 34 million Americans are caregivers for their parents or other relatives with the average distance being 750 miles. Although a caregiver from that distance cannot physically be there every day, there can be steps taken to prepare in the event a health crisis occurs.
There are organizations such as the National Alliance for Caregiving, which are great resources for useful tips and information. Products that offer protection such as medical alert systems provide comfort to worried caregivers that cannot always be there. Below is a list of useful tips for those caregiving from a distance from Angela Heath, author of “Long-Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide of Far Away Here."
- Paperwork: Make sure to maintain and organize all up-to-date records including insurance, financial and legal documents, i.e. birth certificates, social security cards, a will. It is also important to have your relative give you or another trusted loved one legal authority to act on their behalf. All personal information such as bank accounts, income, bills and insurance policies should be documented and maintained. It is also a good idea to create a list of the utility companies such as gas, electric, phone and cable with all of their contact information.
- Friends and Neighbors: Create a list of your parents' close connections. Having a book of contacts can save a life during an emergency. Research your parents' friends, neighbors, doctors and other acquaintances they regularly communicate with. With you parents' approval, consider giving a trusted love one a copy of your parents' keys.
- Medical Information: Along with financial and legal documents, you should have all up-to-date records of your parents' medical information. Create a contact list for their doctors and pharmacies as well.
- Visits: If you are caregiving from a distance, it is most likely you don’t see you parents as often as you wish. When you do get the chance to see them, make every moment count. Make sure they are stocked up on food, keeping track of their mail and maintain any other household chores. Enjoy the visit by taking them out to their favorite restaurant or show. Taking care of them is your number one priority, but most likely, they are enjoying seeing you again.
Caregiving from a distance can be very stressful. Caregivers often feel guilty and worried for not being able to get there in a moment’s notice. However, keeping on top of their records and staying actively involved in their lives can put your mind at ease and ultimately keep them safer.