There is a tipping point with elderly loved ones at which roles reverse. Rather than being the strong, independent person we’ve known throughout our lives they become someone who needs our support. If this person does not live close by you might feel powerless to help, but the good news is that there is in fact a great deal that you can offer as a long-distance care giver. Try to dispel any feelings of worry and follow this useful guide to take control of care for your long-distance loved one…
Get An Overview Of What Is Needed
Get as much information as you can together about the condition of your loved one. What medications do they need to take? What day-to-day assistance do they require? A great way of establishing this can be to go for a short visit if you are able and make notes on everything you observe and do to help. Look out for mental and physical limitations and tasks that are a struggle. Consider how much support might be needed and what form it might take; for example your loved one might just need help with grocery shopping and household chores via daily visits, or they might benefit from a live-in care-giver who can help them get dressed in the morning, prepare for bed at night, maintain personal hygiene and be around if any accidents occur. Brainstorm the range of practical elements that need attention such as managing bank accounts, paying bills, collecting prescriptions and transportation to appointments.
Talk It Over
Being on the same page with your loved one is crucial. It can be difficult to talk about care so be kind and reassuring in your approach. There is nothing wrong with needing or offering help and your goal is to make life easier. Listen carefully to their thoughts about their own needs and discuss alleviating their burden by making direct contact with their doctors and care-givers and sharing responsibilities for taking care of practical tasks, finances and bills. Once you have their support, make sure you continue to discuss what’s going on openly, so that your loved one feels secure and confident. This trust will support them to let go of their own anxieties about accepting help and relax into a happier routine.
Assemble Your Support Team
A great support network is crucial to long-distance care. So who is in your team? There may be friends or family members nearby who can lend a helping hand or take a large role in care-giving. It might be time to recruit local care services for daily or live-in support. Care providers are a fantastic port of call as, even if you aren’t quite there yet, they can offer great advice about meeting future needs. Your support team also includes your loved one’s doctor, a trusted pharmacist can be a fantastic help, the bank manager, the local grocery store and a friendly neighbour who can check if everything is OK. Collect all the people who can play a role in supporting your loved one’s well-being and record their contact information should you need to call on them.
Now your team is in place it’s time to coordinate your efforts. Communication is the goal, so get down on paper what each person is going to do. Try using a shared online calendar so you can keep track of each other’s roles, this could include a medication schedule and any doctor’s appointments. Whenever you can, come for a visit and see how things are going. You may notice things that others don’t and can offer others a break while spending time with a person you value. Make plans for the unexpected too. Who will be able to act if there is a medical emergency, if someone is sick or needs a break? Planning for every eventuality will mean you can reserve your energy for quality care and for your own life. Don’t ever lose sight of how important that is!
Look After Yourself Too
Care can be exhausting. When a loved one is unwell, in pain or confused it can be a huge emotional burden. Don’t ignore how it makes you feel and make sure to give yourself the care you need too! As you needed a team for the long-distance care you are providing, find someone you trust who you can talk to about what you are experiencing, and make sure your own life doesn’t get lost in looking after others. Consider the option of respite support from professional care givers to allow you and any other main care-giver(s) to take a time-out. With excellent organisation and preparation, you can make long-distance care run smoothly, and gain the peace of mind that your loved one is safe and comfortable – getting the support they need and deserve.