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Caring from Afar: Overcoming Challenges in Long-Distance Care

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Due to increased mobility and life spans, long-distance care has become a reality for many families.  Although living far away can be challenging, there are ways to stay connected with your loved ones.  The most important strategy is to maintain regular communication.  With the advent of modern technology, we have various means to keep in touch, such as video calls, instant messaging, and social media platforms.  Conversations let you stay up-to-date with each other’s lives, share experiences, and provide emotional support.  Another important aspect is to plan visits.  Despite your distance, visiting your loved ones in person can strengthen your bond and create unforgettable memories.  Synchronize your schedules and prioritize these visits, whether a brief weekend escape or an extended vacation.  These personal interactions can establish a deeper connection and bring you closer together.

Steps You Can Take From a Distance


Take advantage of technology.  Use email and social media to stay in touch and get frequent status updates.  Store important documents and data on a flash drive and put it on your key chain.  Learn about new mobile health apps that can tell you if your parents are taking their prescriptions.

Consult with professionals.  Schedule conference calls with family doctors, elder lawyers, and financial advisors.  Keep the information they need organized and updated and schedule appointments.

Research community services.  Check out the websites for local churches and nonprofits.  They may provide free or low-cost services like transportation or exercise classes for seniors.

Sign up for the Mail Carrier Alert Program.  The US Postal Service trains mail carriers to spot trouble signs such as mail or trash piling up and report them to agencies that will check in on older adults.  Ask your mail carrier about how to enroll.

Look into other public services.  Many federal and state programs help seniors with everyday tasks and expenses.  Call the Eldercare Locator toll-free in the US at 1800.677.1116 to find your local area agency on aging and see if you’re eligible.


Steps to Take on Home Visits


Talk with each other.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Check-in with their daily routines and ask about fun events they attended or upcoming things they wanted to see or do.

Find the right moment to ask questions about their future.  Listen, understand, and honor their wishes, not yours.  Take some time to understand what your loved one needs and find a compromise where they’re open to receiving assistance.  Choose one or two simple tasks that you or someone else can help with, making it easier for them and you to adapt to the changes.

Get to know the neighbors.  The people who live next door can keep an eye on things when you are away.  Kindly appreciate their offer if they were willing to provide companionship and inform you of issues like unsafe driving.

Conduct a home inspection.  Look around for safety precautions you can take.  Improve the lighting in the basement or install tighten-guard rails in the bathroom.  Ensure the kitchen is stocked with nutritious foods.

Catch up on paperwork.  Offer to help with paying bills and balancing the checkbook.  If unopened mail is piling up, sit together and respond to important correspondence.  Encourage socializing.  Join your parents in activities like religious services or a weekly golf game.  Get to know their friends or suggest activities where they can spend time with other seniors.

Create happy memories.  Take time to enjoy each other’s company.  Visit a museum or public garden they want to do.  Reminisce over old family films, crafts, and woodwork.


Steps to Take for Yourself


Set realistic goals.  Know your capacity and balance your responsibilities.  Take satisfaction in what you do instead of worrying about doing more.

Plan for emergencies.  Try to put aside some money and have time to respond quickly to changing conditions.  Being prepared will give you more peace of mind.

Divide up the responsibilities.  Hold family meetings so everyone can contribute and take on the assignments they’re best suited for.  Designate one person as the primary caregiver or rotate that role.

Manage stress.  Safeguard your own emotional and physical strength.  Get plenty of rest and sleep.  Exercise regularly and relieve tension by listening to instrumental music or meditating.

Long-distance caregiving is a big responsibility, but careful planning and teamwork will make managing it easier.  Enlist all the help you can, keep yourself in top shape, and make the most of the opportunities you get for home visits.

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