Caregiving can be stressful when you live close by or with a loved one but trying to care from a distance can not only make it more stressful in some ways but also more complicated and confusing. Whether you live 30 minutes away, in another state, across the country or in another country caring from a distance can be worrisome and often difficult. Many times family members and other caregivers simply cannot move themselves or move their loved ones. They spend many hours traveling between the homes of their loved one and themselves or trying to navigate systems from a far. Here are just a few helpful hints when you are caring from a distance and a condensed version from the National Institute on Aging guide book So Far Away
- Know what you need to know- If you suspect changes in your loved one’s ability or cognition, make sure you have started working on getting Health Care Proxy or your loved one’s states equivalent( each state has a different document that is recognized). For Massachusetts it is Health Care Proxy or for New Hampshire it is Durable Medical Power of Attorney. In order to speak with your loved one’s primary care doctor it is also important to have a medical release form (Hippa release in Massachusetts). Additionally it is helpful to talk with your loved one about your concerns and involve them in the process. Speak with their friends or neighbors who may have insight into your concerns. Also start keeping a record of any questions, concerns and tracking your information.
- Plan your visits- Make a to do list ahead of time; speak with loved ones about what they need, try to plan doctor appointments that can be scheduled during your visit. Check out their environment, unopened mail, old food in the refrigerator can signify that they are experiencing some kind of change. Try to make appropriate visits to anyone involved with their care and if services are already set up check in aides or agencies involved. Prioritize so that you are also able to spend quality time visiting with your loved one.
- Trying to plan services or care for a loved from a distance can be confusing or overwhelming. When looking on-line for providers it is helpful to understand what you are looking for and what you are looking at. If you type in Elder Care in any state you will get a number of responses and may not find anything that you are looking for and some sites may actually be the opposite of what you are looking for. It is helpful to know that the web address- for .gov is a government agency, .edu is educational institution and .org is a professional organization or a non-profit, and .com is a commercial website. Also when you look at a page always check their “About Us” page.
- Another helpful way to find support is to contact the local AAA/ASAP agency in your loved ones area. All states offer different supports and programs and have different eligibility standards. You can find your local AAA/ASAP by going to www.n4a.org.
- Take Care of Yourself and your take care of your loved one. There are a range of emotions and stressors that take place when you are caregiving and these are sometimes magnified when you are trying to do this from a distance. It is still important to find ways for self-care. Attending a Caregiver Support Group is one way for to help with emotional self-care. Additionally small ways for self- care can include taking a nap on the airplane down to see them or making a stop for your own lunch at a favorite restaurant on the drive for their visit, it is important that you care for your own wellbeing not only for yourself but also so you are healthy emotionally and physically to can take care of them.