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Misery Loves Company: Long Distance Caregiving

December 09, 2015

They say misery loves company. And if you're one of the 7 million long-distance caregivers, that might give you some comfort. Like you, others worry about loved ones who live miles away. Are they eating enough? Are bills paid? Are they safe? Healthy? Happy? The anxieties are endless.

We understand. As does the National Institute on Aging, which has devoted countless articles to the topic. And they've got some good news for you: "Long-distance caregivers can be helpful no matter how far away they live." But how?

"This kind of care can take many forms—from helping with finances or money management to arranging for in-home care; from providing respite care for a primary caregiver to creating a plan in case of emergencies. Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of new needs, including home health aides, insurance benefits and claims, and durable medical equipment."

Today's Caregiver magazine has also addressed this vital topic. "Because Americans have become such a transient culture, adult children are now finding themselves having to deal with an ever-growing crisis: taking on the new-found role as long-distance caregiver," an article on their website explains.

Here are some of their suggestions for long-distance caregivers:

  • Arrange for social visits from friends, family and other care provider volunteers.

  • Have a safety inspection of the house (test smoke alarms, look for uneven flooring, loose rugs and lighting).

  • Investigate the options for personal emergency response systems for your loved one's home. This will allow 24 hour emergency assistance for your loved one and will let you know if fire rescue has been called.

  • The Mayo Clinic also offers this sage advice:

    Schedule a family meeting. Gather family and friends involved in your loved one's care in person, by phone or by Web chat. Discuss goals, feelings and divide up duties. Be sure to include the loved one in the decision-making process.

    Get organized. Compile notes about your loved one's medical condition and any legal or financial issues. Include contact numbers, insurance information and account numbers.

    Keep in touch with your loved one's providers. In coordination with your loved one and his or her other caregivers, schedule conference calls with doctors or other health care providers to keep on top of changes in your loved one's health. (Be sure to have your loved one sign a release allowing the doctor to discuss medical issues with you)

    Ask your loved one's friends for help. Stay in touch with your loved one's friends and neighbors who might be able to help you understand what's going on with your loved one on a daily basis.

    Seek professional help. If necessary, hire someone to help with meals, personal care and other needs.

    Plan for emergencies. Set aside time and money in case you need to make unexpected visits to help your loved one

    Stay in touch. Send digital movies and cards and set a time each day or week for phone calls with your loved one.

    And, the Mayo Clinic reminds us: "Many long-distance caregivers feel guilty about not being able to do enough or spend adequate time with a family member in need of care. If you're feeling guilty, remind yourself that you're doing the best you can. It might be helpful to join a support group for caregivers. You might benefit from the tips of others as well as the knowledge that you're not alone."

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