This November is National Caregiver Month and we are thrilled to celebrate the kindness and dedication of caregivers. Although many caregivers live near the loved ones they care for, estimates suggest that there are up to 7 million long-distance caregivers. A long-distance caregiver may live a few hours from their loved one or across the country.
It can be easy to feel as though you can’t do enough for your loved one if you are unable to see them in person. However, it’s important to remember that there are many ways you can support the people you care about. To put yourself at ease and protect the one you love, consider taking the following actions…
- Build a team of support. Recruit friends and family members that can be available and ready to take action in any situation. Don’t forget to incorporate your loved one’s local friends and neighbors as well as a primary caregiver so they can be there when major changes in health or behavior occur. Having a team will also allow you to step back and take time for yourself – a critically important but often neglected part of being a caregiver.
- Gather important information. By simply speaking with your loved one over the phone, you can obtain their health, financial, legal, and personal information. Once you have it, decide which member of your team should be in charge of this information. If your loved one suffers from a health ailment and ends up in the hospital, it will put everyone at ease to know that their bills can still be paid on time and their assets are legally protected.
- Assess the home. If you are able to visit your loved one, you will want to make sure that the home they are living in is safe. Does their home have good lighting, food in the fridge, and clutter-free spaces? Make sure to remove any expired food from the refrigerator and move tripping hazards such as rugs or cords with your loved one’s permission. If you can’t visit, see if a nearby friend or relative can.
- Discuss your options. Some seniors benefit from living in their home with an in-home nurse while others thrive on the social aspects of a retirement home. Having someone provide continuous care to your loved one can be a preferable option for both you and your loved one. Ask your loved one which one they would prefer.
- Keep your loved one’s values in mind. When you are worried about a friend or family member, it can be easy to forget that they have their own set of desires and beliefs. Work with them to make conscious decisions that will both protect and please your loved one.
By using these tips as a starting point, you and your loved one will be able to engage in discussions that will lead to meaningful changes in their health and wellbeing. For more information on how to care for a loved one from a distance, please visit the National Institute on Aging.