Long-Distance Caregivers: Supporting Your Senior Loved One From Afar

Claire Wentz

Most of us need assistance as we age. It’s quite common for seniors to face a variety of challenges, such as financial problems, medical issues, loneliness, mobility limitations, and mistreatment. Although many seniors function just fine on their own, a little help from supportive loved ones ensures they can maintain their health and happiness. If you’re trying to care for a senior loved one who lives miles away, there is still plenty you can do.

Stay Up to Date on Their Coverage

Many seniors depend on Medicare for help with medical expenses, including things like doctor’s visits, short-term nursing care, surgeries, and lab tests. If your loved one doesn’t get online very often, it will be hard for them to stay up to date on their healthcare coverage. You should stay informed of any changes to their plan so they aren’t met with unexpected charges when they go for a routine checkup or if an emergency occurs. There are many excellent resources available online where you can learn about the current plans available in your state and any supplementary options that will cover additional expenses such as prescription drugs. It’s also a good idea to keep track of the Medicare enrollment process and time periods during which your loved one can make any necessary changes to their plan.

Organize Important Documents

Don’t be left scrambling for important documents when an emergency occurs. Instead, gather everything together and organize it now. A Place For Mom recommends obtaining copies of your loved one’s birth certificate, driver’s license, medical insurance card, marriage certificate, Social Security card, and mortgage. Also, keep a list detailing where official records are kept so you can access them when needed. These documents may include a living will, tax returns, power of attorney, investments, funeral arrangements, and insurance policies. These documents will help you protect your loved one’s financial health and ensure their end-of-life care wishes are met. Finally, include contact information for your loved one’s attorney, financial planner, beneficiaries, and credit card companies.

Get to Know People in Their Community

Although you aren’t close enough to check up on your loved one, provide transportation, or respond to an emergency, others are. Get to know your loved one’s neighbors and ask them to keep an eye out for you. They’ll be able to tell if something significant changes in your loved one’s behavior, like if they stop getting their mail or opening the blinds in the morning. Talk to your loved one’s friends, senior centers, and local healthcare providers and tell them that you would like to stay informed about your loved one’s health and happiness. These people may also be able to step in if you have to take a temporary pause in your caregiver tasks to help with scheduling appointments, coordinating transportation, or paying bills for your loved one. Also, ask your loved one’s doctor for a list of their medication and make it clear that you want to receive up-to-date information about their well-being.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are a variety of apps, websites, and tech devices to help you stay in contact with your loved one and organize information for their care team. Instead of calling them on the phone, get them set up with a video chat service like Skype or Google Hangouts. This can help you get a better picture of how your loved one is doing while alleviating loneliness for them. Smart home technology and home monitoring devices can also be useful to help ensure your senior loved one is comfortable and safe in their own home. Also, check out this list of handy mobile apps that can help you track the many aspects of caregiving for you and your loved one’s care team.

Many remote caregivers experience guilt that they aren’t doing enough. Care.com stresses the importance of accepting that these feelings are normal and acknowledging that there are real limits on what you can offer as a long-distance caregiver. Providing long-distance care and support can take a toll on your own well-being, so address any problems with chronic stress or burnout as soon as possible. You have to take care of yourself before you can care for others.

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