Long-Distance Caregiving

Family members are becoming long-distance caregivers for their elderly loved ones

Planning an elderly loved one’s care can be daunting, especially if you don’t live nearby. A large amount of long-distance caregiving is handled remotely. Technologies have improved to address this growing trend, allowing family members to monitor many aspects of their elderly loved one’s care from afar.

When are you considered a long-distance caregiver, or remote guardian, and what can you do to be a better one?

Who is considered a long-distance caregiver?

If you provide care for someone who is more than an hour away from you, you are considered a long-distance caregiver. The care you give doesn’t have to be related to health, though it often is. Common services that long-distance caregivers help with include:

  • arranging for home care services
  • finance management/bill paying
  • arranging for care in a facility, such as a nursing home
  • providing emotional support
  • providing respite care, which is temporary relief for a person’s normal caregiver
  • keeping paperwork in order
  • creating an emergency plan

A long-distance caregiver may be responsible for one or all of these tasks. It’s never easy to manage this kind of care from far away, so let’s look at ways to make it easier on both you and your elderly loved one.

How can I be a better remote guardian?

There’s no one right way to provide long-distance care to a loved one. Every situation is different. Moreover, your role will likely change over time.

Here are some tips about how you can still assist with the planning and implementation of care services when you’re far away.

1. Do your research. Find out everything you can about your elderly loved one’s condition. Talk to his or her doctors who will know more about what the condition can entail.

When you talk to your loved one on the phone, ask how he or she is feeling and note any changes. Make sure you have details about the medication he or she is taking and the daily dosages for each medication.

The more you know, the more you can help. If you have all the facts, you can then make important calls if his or her condition worsens.

2. Get permission. It’s important to talk to doctors and nurses about your loved one’s condition since you can’t always be there. Ask for written permission from your loved one to have access to both his or her financial and medical information.

The most important “permission slip” for health care is to have your loved one designate you as a Health Care Representative so that, in the event he or she can no longer make health care decisions, you can step in.

Likewise, having your loved one name you as agent under a Durable Power of Attorney will allow you to pay bills, make financial decisions, and hire attorneys.

3. Hire professionals. The best way to manage health care decisions from afar is to hire a Geriatric Care Manager or Aging Life Care Professional.  The Aging Life Care Association describes their services as, “a partner to help you make the best decisions and deliver the best solutions for you and your loved one as they age”.  Aging Life Care Professionals are often registered nurses and social workers. They provide an invaluable tool to help your loved one navigate the challenges of aging, whether or not you are living far away from them.

4. Use technology. There are now many remote-monitoring devices that can help you keep an eye on your elderly loved one. These devices help with a wide range of tasks, including:

  • monitoring home safety with security cameras
  • managing medication distribution
  • arranging for transportation services
  • managing finances
  • checking on loved ones throughout the day
  • organizing and managing overall care plans

Smart home technologies allow for you to install cameras, monitor temperatures, receive alerts if there is carbon dioxide detected, or even install sensors into floor mats to monitor when your elderly loved one gets out of bed.

But while these tools are easy to use and will give you peace of mind, make sure your elderly loved one has a say in the amount of privacy he or she has. Ensure they’re aware that you’ll be monitoring them, and how.

5. Visit when you can. The best way to keep your loved one safe and happy is to visit often and spend time with him or her. Plan activities when you visit that you know he or she will like, such as attending a concert or getting family together for a celebration.

While you can’t be around all the time, make the time you have together special and fulfilling. Don’t just talk about finances or the logistics of his or her care. Your elderly loved ones need emotional care and support just as much as they need health care services.
At NJ Elder Law Center, we understand that caring for elderly loved ones can be an emotional time. We can assist you and your family with long-term care planning, care coordination, Medicaid planning, and guardianship. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help.

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