If you are a long-distance caregiver, daily worries and frustration can easily become a way of life. However, information, organization, technology and a supportive care team can reduce those worries and help you to manage family, career and long-distance caregiving. Here are three strategies that can help:
1. Technology is your friend: New technology helps long-distance caregivers to be present with their senior loved ones.
- A good way to get a read on your loved one’s health is to be able to see him or her face-to-face. This is where Ohmni, Nest, and any number of face-to-face mobile apps come in handy. These technologies are easy to setup, need little training to use, and allow you to be with your loved one – virtually. We have a trial program for some of these new technologies in our Bay area office so you can explore them.
- Newer apps like myowndoctor.com are designed for long-distance caregivers. They make it easy to participate virtually in doctor’s appointments, be included in e-mail loops and receive education on your loved one’s specific health conditions. Ask your loved one’s physician and/or hospital if they use specific apps to assist long distance caregivers.
- Use technology to streamline the family calendar. When everyone can add sports practice, after school activities and late night meetings to one schedule, your ability to juggle all of it increases exponentially. Apple and Google calendars are two of the most highly used, but Cozi, and Famjama are also popular. Search online for “family calendar apps” to find a list to research.
- Use technology to stay in touch with work. You may already do this but when you become a caregiver and even more information enters your stream, you need to increase your organization. Make sure that information regarding your caregiver responsibilities, work and family are organized and clearly coded by flags, colors or folders.
2. Build a long distance care team: You will be able to better manage family, career and long-distance caregiving if you build an effective and supportive care team.
First, make sure that you are meeting the senior’s needs. Ask your loved one to detail what types of support are important during the day. Engaging your loved one is key to the success of support services so that he or she won’t resist or resent the support.
- Talk to your loved one’s physician. The physician won’t be able to share specific clinical details unless you are the health care proxy. However, the physician can give you general information like whether or not your loved one could use dietary support or assistance with medication adherence. Nutrition and the proper dosage and timing of medication are two pillars of good health for seniors.
- Create a long distance care team made up of friends, family members, neighbors of your loved one and local senior resources. You may be the long-distance eyes, ears and advocate for your loved one, but you need people on the ground who can physically visit and support your loved one.
- Professional at-home caregivers are especially helpful in this role. When you are trying to manage family, career and long-distance caregiving, professional caregivers can provide many duties in the home as well as transportation and companionship services. These go a long way toward providing you with peace of mind.
- Seek local resources. There are many organizations that provide support for seniors. You can find the ones in your loved one’s area by checking these sources of information:
- Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
- National Institute on Aging website
- Family Care Navigator
- Your state government’s website, search for “elder care”, “senior care”, or “INSERT STATE NAME Executive Office of Elder Affairs.”
- Home Care agencies can also be a great resource to rely on. Certified, professional home caregivers can take care of your loved one and keep you updated on their condition.
3. Get organized. Information is power and so is organization. It will reduce your stress and increase your sense of control over all the responsibilities you have between family, career and long-distance caregiving. Keep detailed records.
- Create a 3-ring binder in which you can keep notes, medical records, insurance information, calendars and even printed copies of emails. This will be a great help to you as the care of your loved one becomes more complex.
- Include contact information for all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, case managers and specialists, like physical therapists.
- Make copies for all those involved in the support and care of your loved one and keep the records updated.
- Keep all important family documents like birth certificates, in a fireproof box, or keep them in a safe deposit box at the bank.
- If your children are of school age, create a central dumping spot for school folders, homework, and forms that need to be completed. (You may still have to check backpacks, but a central spot can help in some way!)
Whether you’re using technology in your long-distance caregiving structure, or you’ve learned how to build a long-distance care team, It is complicated to manage family, career and long-distance caregiving. If you are a long-distance caregiver and have found successful strategies that help you in this balancing act we would like to hear from you. Experience is a great teacher!