By Jill Abell
If your elderly loved one lives far away, it might seem challenging to help from a distance. Long-distance caregiving is especially challenging if your loved one’s care is not addressed before a crisis. Here are some common mistakes you can avoid to ensure your loved one is cared for and that you stay in the loop.
- Not Having a Family Meeting
The number one way to ensure your role as a long-distance caregiver won’t go well is if you don’t have a family meeting. Start by planning a time for everyone to get together, including the loved one who needs care, if they are capable. Have this meeting as early as possible when everyone is feeling calm to avoid confusion and to have a productive conversation. If it’s not possible for you to be there, participate in the meeting via video chat or by phone.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the best way to start is by asking your loved one what they want and make that the basis for the plan. Then divvy up the responsibilities for their care. Often, the best first step is deciding who will be the primary caregiver. The primary caregiver will be the main caregiver who the other caregivers report to. This may sound militant, but it will prevent confusion and disagreements in the future.
- Forgetting About the Primary Caregiver
Being the primary caregiver is not easy. And it’s easy to forget that the primary caregiver needs just as much love and support as your elderly loved one. Once you have decided who will be the primary caregiver, decide how you, as a long-distance caregiver, and other caregivers will support the primary caregiver. Other caregivers can give respite to the primary by taking over care while the primary is on vacation. Take time to check in with them and offer them encouragement and appreciation for their efforts.
If you are the primary caregiver, then you should expect this support from your family members.
- Not Staying In Touch With Your Loved One
A daily phone call or e-mail can do wonders for you and your loved one. Staying in contact will help keep you involved. Often times, family members don’t want you to worry and will not be honest with you about how they’re doing. According to the National Institute on Aging, if you’re worried they’re not eating dinner, call at dinner time and ask what’s on the dinner menu. If it’s cereal or snack food, that tells you they may need assistance with food preparation.
- Not Compiling Important Information
Create a document, spreadsheet or notebook with information about your family member’s health issues, legal and/or financial issues. Be sure to add contact numbers, insurance, information, account numbers and anything else you would need to know.
- Not Researching Medical Issue(s)
Knowledge is power. According to the MayoClinic website, long-distance caregivers should take the time to find out more about what’s going on with their elderly loved one by researching their illness and treatment. That way you will have a better understanding of how they are feeling and what they might need.
- Missing Medication Adherence Opportunities
One of the greatest difficulties of long-distance caregiving is managing your loved one’s medications. You can’t be there every day, several times a day, to ensure they’re staying on their medication schedule. Consider hiring a caregiver to stop by the house to remind the patient to take the medication. If hiring a caregiver is not in the budget, consider trying out an automatic pill dispenser. MedMinder’s automatic pill dispenser has visual and auditory aids to remind the patient when to take the medication and the caregiver is notified when they forget.
You can also add a Medical Alert feature to your pill dispenser — with the press of a button your loved one and can talk to our emergency answering center and ask for help.
- Not Planning For the Upcoming Visit
When you schedule your next visit with your loved one, don’t miss this opportunity to help out your loved one as much as possible. Plan ahead and decide together what to take care of during your visit. Here are some ideas on how you can help during your visit:
~Schedule any necessary appointments.
~Make a list of any household items they might need and then go shopping for them if you have time.
~Make time to sort through their mail and any papers laying around.
~Scan the home for anything broken, especially any potential safety hazards. Then arrange for someone to come fix the problem or fix it yourself.
And most importantly, don’t forget to spend some quality time together: go for a walk, watch a movie, or find an activity that you both enjoy and go do it!
Long-distance caregiving does not have to be a struggle if you plan ahead, work with your other family members and keep yourself informed. Start one of these tips today. Call your loved one. Sort out the details of who is the primary caregiver in your family. And if you’re concerned about their ability to take medications on time, check out MedMinder’s automatic pill dispensers.