Care-Giving from Afar
Care-giving under the best of circumstances is difficult. Care-giving from afar brings with it a unique set of challenges. Today, our social worker, Mendy Bucy, provides some additional thoughts on how to maximize impact from afar.
If you are trying to care for a loved one long-distance, you are not alone. Unfortunately, this can be tricky since it is often difficult to assess how they are doing simply by a phone call, and visiting regularly to assess their needs is often not possible. Below are some tips for doing the best you can from afar.
- First, write everything down. When you call and ask questions, write down the answers and date it. This will be extremely helpful if you determine your loved one isn’t consistent in reporting what is happening and provide you a record to help support efforts down the road (if necessary).
- Call at various times of the day. This will allow you to assess cognitive changes during various times of the day and allow you to ask questions regarding behavior (for example, what are you making for lunch?)
- Consider purchasing your loved one a webcam. Make sure you help; set it up and teach them how to use it. Some facilities, particularly the new ones, have these as part of their standard room set-up. This can not only help you feel more connected, but provides an added level of safety. Make sure you and your loved one know how to take advantage of this technology. Support staff and on-site care givers can help, so don’t be afraid to ask.
- Develop an informal network of support for your loved one. Call (ideally with permission) neighbors, church members, etc. to see if they can provide some support and/or give you feedback.
- Assist with finances, if your loved one will allow this (which can be quite tricky).
- Help organize important paperwork and distribute copies to those involved.
- When you do travel to see your loved one, try to set up doctor appointments so you can talk with the medical provider(s). Ask your loved one to sign a release with the provider for you so you can contact the provider regularly.
- Help with minor household projects when you visit. Change light bulbs and batteries. Assess for fall hazards, such as throw rugs and electrical cords, and secure. Assess for larger concerns, such as unsafe stairwells, and address how to fix.
- Visit with your loved one regarding what they want and need to continue living independently and what is realistic.
Ultimately, caregiving from afar is challenging. By communicating with your loved one regularly, you can attempt to rectify concerns quickly and also maximize your utility. In the end it’s about doing the best we can with what we have. A little planning and forethought will go along way in terms of making the process easier for everyone.