If you have an elderly parent or loved one who lives far away, you may often wonder how they’re coping with the challenges of aging. You may have noticed signs of forgetfulness during a phone conversation or a stack of unopened mail during a visit. Too often we don't know exactly how someone is doing until there is a crisis.
By Anne Markowitz Recht
Founder and CEO of AMR Care Group
It’s often during these times that families come face to face with the challenges of long-distance caregiving. Here are steps to take to understand your loved one’s needs, and to work with family, friends and professionals to be sure those needs are met, before a crisis occurs.
Assess your loved one’s situation
The first step to being an effective long-distance caregiver is to be well-informed. During your next visit, pay attention to your loved ones’ health, the condition of their home, their appearance and grooming. Are they alert and engaged when you talk with them? Do they seem happy and comfortable? Is there food in the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets? If something seems off, then ask if you can talk with your loved one’s healthcare provider, their primary caregiver (if there is one), financial advisor and other professionals. Talk to friends and neighbors—and, most important, to your loved one. Ask lots of questions and make notes.
Devise a plan of action
Once you have sense of your loved one’s situation and needs, determine what your role can and should be. Create a plan that will help ensure their well-being and your peace of mind. Make sure the right people are involved in the plan—other family and professionals who can offer good solutions. Remember that unless your loved one is completely incapacitated, they must be centrally involved in developing the plan. This will allow them to feel a sense of control. Your goal is to support your loved one’s maximum level of independence, self-esteem and dignity.
If your loved one has a diagnosis such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, or other chronic illness, learn all you can about the condition. This will help you understand what they’re going through and possible action items you can do to help improve the situation.
Keep in touch
Nothing takes the place of human connection, whether on the phone, through a letter or email or in person. Here are some great ways to keep in touch with your loved one:
- Call often, and encourage your loved one to call you.
- Set your loved one up with a simple email program.
- Use a webcam or Skype for “virtual visits.”
- Help your loved one create a Facebook page, or set up a family blog.
- Remember that cards, letters and photos never go out of style.
Enlist the help of a professional caregiver
When you are a long-distance caregiver, hiring a professional caregiver makes sense. An in-home caregiver can provide companionship, run errands, provide safety supervision, prepare meals and accompany your loved one to medical appointments, among other services. AMR Care Group provides home care services throughout Manhattan, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County. A care manager can assess your loved one’s needs, develop a customized Plan of Care, and serve as an advocate during medical, legal and financial appointments.you have an elderly parent or loved one who lives far away, you may often wonder how they’re coping with the challenges of aging. You may have noticed a memory lapse during a phone conversation or a stack of unopened mail during a visit. It’s often hard to know exactly how they’re doing until there is a crisis.