Do you have a parent or grandparent who needs care but lives far from you? You’re not alone.
Thousands of adults are in the same situation. Many feel guilty for being so far away and unable to help more. Hopefully, you have siblings or other relatives nearby who can care for the person so you can rest easy knowing that their needs are being met.
Even if you live far away from your loved one, it’s vital that you share the load with those on the ground locally. Caregiving is hard work, time consuming, and can be emotionally and physically taxing. Everyone in the family should be prepared to contribute to the person’s care so that no one person has to do it all.
How can you help when you are on the other side of the world? Communication is key. Call a meeting with everyone involved in the care of your loved one. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. Discuss who is best suited to each task based on their strengths or abilities. Make a formal agreement in terms of who will do what and put it in writing, so everyone is clear on the assigned roles.
Try these five tips for caregiving from afar:
- Take it step by step. Evaluate what is required and locate the resources you need.
- Evaluate the financial situation. Find out what funds are available, how to access them, and whether insurance plans or community resources are available to offset some of the costs.
- Assemble your team. This should include an elder care attorney, care manager, and care providers who can work together to create a plan for action that will meet your loved one’s needs now—and later.
- Take care of yourself. It’s especially important to avoid “long-distance guilt.” Find a support group and take time for yourself. Avoiding burnout is essential.
- Leverage technology. Make use of Facetime, in-home cameras, online accounts, and apps that allow caregivers to communicate and share information about doctor visits, daily care routines, medication changes, and other issues. This makes it easier to “be there” even if you’re thousands of miles away.
Finally, be flexible. Don’t be surprised if your elderly loved one’s needs change. Be prepared to take on new responsibilities. If the primary caregiver seems overwhelmed and you aren’t sure how you can help, ask “What can I do?” Being able to go with the flow will help you cope through the transition periods.
Whether you live near or far, be creative and find ways to help. With today’s technology, it is easy for everyone to be involved. And, with a little forethought, the responsibilities can be easily shared. As the saying goes, many hands make light work.
Barbara Boone McGinnis is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and partner at Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law, PLLC in Hendersonville. Contact Barbara at 615-824-2571.