It’s a common scenario: You live in one city, but your mother who needs care is in another. Nearly one-quarter of people caring for elderly relatives do so from a distance.
It can be stressful to coordinate care when you don’t live in the same community as your parent or loved one. Here are four ways to make it work.
Photo by CJ Burton/Corbis
1. Build a care team. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for one person to meet all the needs of a loved one who is aging. It’s important to form a caregiving team that includes family members, neighbors, friends, the faith community and, if needed, paid help. Different people can be tasked to line up meals, provide rides to the doctor and arrange for grocery delivery services. Be sure to tap into the expertise of each team member — one person may be good at handling bills, another might be an effective advocate for health care and someone else may provide loving company.
2. Consider a geriatric care manager. Care managers can be a great resource to assess an elderly person’s situation and guide you through choices of care. They can line up qualified help, oversee health care services and sort through housing options. Geriatric care managers usually charge by the hour, and rates vary by region. See the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers for more information.
3. Leverage technology. When you are organizing care from a distance, using online resources and social networks can facilitate communication among team members. Set up a site on Facebook, CaringBridge or Lotsa Helping Hands to encourage conversation among care team members and to serve as a virtual information exchange. Also, take advantage of mobile apps with medical records and electronic calendar reminders to help you track your tasks.
4. Care for yourself. Being a caregiver can be demanding and time-consuming, especially when you are helping out from a distance. When you are far away, there can be added worry from the uncertainty of the situation. Stress can negatively affect your health, well-being and ability to help. Remember to schedule regular time for what’s important to you — exercising, socializing or just relaxing. Find out your company’s policy regarding caregivers. There may be benefits that can help ease your situation, such as flextime policies or job sharing to free up your schedule. Check out caregiving support services and support groups. There’s comfort in knowing others are experiencing the same ups and downs as you.
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