One of the first things you need to do is to collect the information that you’ll need (neighbor, friend, relative, trusted companion). Give a copy of the list of information to your family member and keep one for yourself. Creating a binder (physical or electronic) can be a useful tool to keep everything together and convenient.
You will need to collect medical information to keep on hand in case of a crisis. These would include medical records list of medications (or healthcare login to ensure you have the latest copy of current medications given the rapid nature of changing medical information) that your loved one takes, notes on what their condition is, names, phone numbers of all the doctors they interact with, and the phone number of their pharmacy.
It will save money to prepare for the unknown ahead of time. This is opposed to waiting until after a stroke for example when they can’t make their wishes known.
Help with managing your parent’s care:
Being a long-distance caregiver means you aren’t there for the daily care which may be needed. Trusted neighbors and friends are often great resources for people who do not have the means or desire to bring in an agency.
It is best to arrive at a joint decision when possible to come up with the care plan and who will be helping. Your parent may not be too thrilled about a stranger being in their home taking care of them. They may not even want to admit they need help. But, if you explain why you have hired the caregivers, and what your concerns are, how the caregiver will help them to continue to age in place and to remain independent, then they may be a bit more accepting.
If there is a safety issue or financial issue, you can always offer to help find other solutions or non-paid caregivers/friends. Another option may be to help supplement the cost if you are able. Also, Medicaid is available for those with lower incomes. They can often receive quality treatment even if the care is above the stated limits by creating an income cap trust to show that the money they do receive goes toward care.
Either way, exploring these options and arriving at an agreed-upon plan is the best option. Knowing your parent is in good hands makes you worry less and reduces your stress levels.
If your parent still won’t accept care and when it becomes a safety issue, then you must act in their best interest. Involving the doctor early on is very useful as they can explain the risks and benefits from a non-biased point of view. Often a third party can make a strong case and help support the logical decisions that need to occur.
Taking care of yourself
Even though you’re miles away, long-distance caregiving is a strain on you also. You need to realize that you can’t provide for all of your parent’s needs. Pat yourself on the back for organizing the care you have provided and for coordinating the services.
Offer your support by phone calls and visits when you can. If you feel another family member isn’t stepping up to the plate, then consider calling a family meeting to resolve any issues before they get out of hand. Take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising. You can’t be of any help to your parent if you don’t take care of yourself.
Being a long-distance caregiver isn’t impossible if you are organized and have help. And you don’t have to be alone in the process.