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Tips for the Long-Distance Caregiver

Article Highlights

  • Keep information organized
  • Make your visit productive
  • Know your public assistance options

Look into Public Benefits Online
You can now go online and safely and conveniently get an idea of the different public assistance programs for which your parents might be eligible. By using Benefits QuickLINK you can find helpful state, federal and private benefits programs available where your parents live. By answering a few questions, you will get fact sheets, applications and websites for programs that can help them save money and cover costs of everyday expenses.

Get Help with Managing the Care
Most communities have professionals who can gauge your loved one’s abilities and needs and set up a plan for care. You can find this assistance through government-funded programs by using the Eldercare Locator. Another option is to hire a private geriatric care manager. A number of employers are starting to pay for these services and, if your family member has long-term care insurance, this might be covered under the policy. For a list of local professionals, visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers or the National Association of Social Workers.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Be sensitive to your parent’s view of the situation. At first they may not want strangers in their home, or they may have trouble facing change. Maintain a positive focus, explain how the services will work and that they are designed to help your parent remain independent. If possible, offer to contribute to the cost of care without appearing to offer charity. If your suggestions of service are rebuffed, you can have an objective third party — such as a doctor — recommend the service.

Don’t Forget Your Needs
Recognize the strain that long-distance caregiving causes, and take steps to reduce it.  Accept that it's impossible for you to provide all the help your parent needs. Give yourself credit for your efforts to determine needs, coordinate services and offer support by phone and occasional visits. Ask for help when you need it. If you don't feel that other family members are doing their share, consider a family meeting to help resolve any issues. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. For more tips on managing the stress of caregiving, click here.

Mail Carrier Alert Program
In some communities, mail carriers or utility workers are trained to spot signs of trouble through the Carrier Alert Program of the U.S. Postal Service. They report concerns, such as accumulated mail or trash, to an agency that will check on the older adult. This is a service of the USPS and the NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) in collaboration with local non-profits. To find out if there’s a program in your area, contact the local post office or NALC branch office, or ask your mail carrier for information.

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