It’s a day everyone knew was coming but nobody is ever ready for: taking care of aging relatives. On top of that—and depending on the direction life takes you—time and distance may add another challenge to looking after them. So, how do you look after a loved one who lives far away? With some planning and organizing, what seems like an impossible task can become more manageable with these tips for long-distance caregiving.
This doesn’t just mean finances, medical records, bills, and other documents—it goes for people as well. Organize a care team. Hold a family meeting with your elderly relatives, siblings (yours and theirs), and other family members—in person or virtually—to discuss a care plan going forward. Assess their needs and financial status. Determine when people can be with and look after them and the possibility of hiring caretakers to handle specific duties. Explore whether any organizations they belong to—social, religious, professional, or the like—offer services or individuals who can periodically check in on them and report on their condition. Develop a schedule everyone can access to know who’s with them and when. If it’s in your budget, consider consulting a credentialed care manager nearby to handle specific points of care and more.
Before heading out to visit them, take your safety into consideration as well, especially if you’ll need to transport them. Is your vehicle equipped to handle someone infirm or otherwise disabled? Can they enter and exit the vehicle safely? Be sure your car is properly maintained with updated tires kept at their standard PSI, fluids that are clean, topped off, and have regular checkups. If they’re still driving, do the same for them and bring their vehicle in for an inspection and proper maintenance.
Take Over the Paperwork
One of the key tips for long-distance caregiving is this: even if you can’t be there in person, you can still watch over them. Offer to handle payment of their bills, deal with insurance, and maintain and protect their medical, legal, and other personal records. Stay in touch to ensure everything is updated and accurate, confirming the facts with doctors, caregivers, and other service providers.
Visits Are Vital
When you are able to visit them, every moment is precious. Precious, obviously, on an emotional level, but also in ways to assess and ensure they’re receiving the proper care. Use the time to observe their living conditions, speak with any caregivers about their mood and the quality of care, and acquaint yourself with any visitors they might have who you’ve yet to meet. Check on their finances and inspect the place where they live for any necessary repairs. Keep an eye out for signs of depression and abuse, missing funds, and potential scammers. Check if they need anything replaced, such as clothing, toiletries, and so forth. Above all, enjoy your time with them and spend more time listening than talking.