Help for Long Distance Caregivers

by Lois Etienne on September 1, 2010

in Caregiver Support

Senior-Woman-With-In-Home-CaregiverCaregiving responsibilities can occur without warning, so without proper planning, it can create a crisis situation, particularly if you live far away.

Living far away from your senior in need is a problem for many caregivers. According to a Home Instead Senior Care survey, 45% of American adults who plan to care for an aging relative in the next two to four years live one or more hours away. Of those, just six percent have shortened the distance between them to make caregiving easier.

Of those currently caring for an older relative, 23% live more than one hour away and of this group, 20% live two-plus hours away. Some families find themselves several states away from their senior loved one, making a long drive or plane ride the only choice.

“It is not uncommon for family members who are family caregivers to live in different cities or states, making travel time and expense a major issue,” says Paul Hogan, president and founder of Home Instead Senior Care. “Providing assistance to an aging relative can become a full-time job for many, so the addition of travel can compound the stress and exhaustion.”

If moving closer to the senior or having the senior move closer to you is not an option, the following tips may make your long distance caregiving easier:

  • Get to know the senior’s neighbors when you visit – identify one or two trustworthy neighbors that can look in on your elderly relative – call them once a week for an update.
  • Get to know the local mail carrier – if he/she sees that the mail has not been brought in, he can alert you or a neighbor. Some post offices have special programs set up to handle this type of “elder watch” issue, so make sure to sign up your relative.
  • Get to know your relative’s friends – they can be eyes and ears when you aren’t around.
  • Create a list of your senior’s medical issues/medications, doctor’s names, and legal documents in case you need to access them in an emergency.
  • Keep a copy of your relatives Yellow Pages at your own house or bookmark his/her local Yellow Pages on your web browser (www.yellowpages.com) so you have access to their local business numbers, etc. in his/her area.
  • Investigate non-medical senior services in the area, such as transportation, community centers, professional care/companionship, etc.
  • Set up professional caregiving services to provide daily or occasional assistance for every day tasks, such as grocery shopping, medication reminders, running errands, meal preparation, etc. One of the most important roles of this professional caregiver is to provide companionship, as well as be a regular visitor who can monitor any issues that may be cropping up (health, safety, etc.). This person is the “eyes and ears” for the family who lives far away.

Putting this list into action can ease your long distance caregiving stress and provide support and care for your loved one.

Some caregivers find that their senior is initially resistant to outside help. But when shown the benefits, many enjoy having non-medical, professional caregivers in their home.

For more information or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling Spokane: 509.835.5898North King/Snohomish Counties425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties253.943.1603.  You can also email us at loisetienne@homeinsteadnw.com

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