Apart in Distance, Close in Heart: Navigating Long-Distance Senior CarePosted By HarborChase on January 22, 2022
Distance is normal for many families, but it can present some challenges when you live far away from an aging parent or relative who is beginning to require care.
According to a 2020 AARP study, 11% of family caregivers live an hour or more away from their aging family member. Even though long-distance caregiving prevents you from providing the hands-on assistance that you would like, there are still ways to be an effective caregiver from afar.
Assessing Your Family Member’s Needs
You may have first become aware that your aging parent needed assistance during your last visit. Maybe they seemed weaker than usual, the house was messier than previous visits, or bills were piling up. But now that you’ve established they may need some help, you need to determine what kind of help and how frequent.
While your parent(s) may be physically healthy, they may need help with other activities, like sorting their finances or managing their medication. On the other hand, they may be cognitively sharp but are no longer physically capable of grocery shopping or maintaining their home.
By fully understanding their unique needs and challenges, you can better determine your role as a long-distance caregiver.
Gaining Access to Personal Documents
While being physically far away makes several aspects of senior care difficult, one thing long-distance caregivers can easily help with is organizing financial, medical, and legal documents.
Establishing an advanced directive and power of attorney is essential in ensuring that you can make financial or health care decisions for your parent if they cannot. Depending on their state, you may also want to get access to certain accounts, like a checking account or utility statement, in case you need to help with bill paying. Finally, don’t forget to contact doctors and insurance companies to permit any critical information to be shared with you.
Making the Most of Visits
As much as you can do things over the phone or online today, nothing replaces an in-person visit to your parent or relative. When you can manage a physical trip, try to make the most of it. Call ahead of time and see if there’s anything specific your parent wants or needs you to do while you’re there. You can also try to schedule any appointments, deep clean their house, and do a big grocery haul all at once.
While you’re there, don’t forget to take some time off from your caregiving duties. After all, in addition to being their caregiver, you’re also their daughter or son, and your parent wants to spend some quality time with you that doesn’t involve medication or appointments. So take some time off during your visit and enjoy your time together by watching a movie, playing a game, or looking at old photos.
Dealing with Guilt
Being away from your aging parent and not seeing them as much as you would like can already be difficult enough, but once you start doing more to help them out, you can begin to feel guilty for not being able to be closer. Feelings of guilt are common amongst all caregivers, and it’s important to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can from where you are.
Setting up weekly or even nightly video chats can be helpful to keep an eye on your parent and make sure they’re doing alright, but it can also be a special time to feel like you’re together, even when you’re apart.
Researching Local Care Options
There may come a time when your parent needs more support and attention than long-distance senior care can provide. For example, if it appears that Mom or Dad is starting to have difficulties with personal care (such as bathing or grooming), house maintenance, or has been getting more confused to the point of impacting their safety, it could be time to consider assisted living.
Assisted living communities support individuals with the activities of daily living while providing an engaging environment of community programs, daily meals, and convenient amenities. They can be a great way to support older adults while giving their family members peace of mind.
Assisted Living at HarborChase
At HarborChase, our assisted living services deliver an ideal balance of independence and support, ensuring that each resident has everything they need to be successful. We work closely with family members, no matter how far away, to create a customized care plan that allows individuals to get what they need while also paying particular attention to their desires and preferences.
With communities throughout the United States, HarborChase is here for you and your family—wherever you are and however far apart you are. If you are currently providing long-distance senior care and are interested in learning more about our care services at HarborChase, contact our team today!