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Tips for Distance Caregiving: Up Close and Personal at a Distance

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If you think being a caregiver to an older loved one is hard–with all the trips to help them do laundry, the meals prepared, the trips to the grocery store, the calls received all hours of the day or night–try doing all of that across town or across the country

One of every seven of the more than 44 million caregivers in America is a “distance caregiver.”  That’s about six to seven million caregivers.  And one in four lives 20 minutes or more away from the loved one in need.  “Distance” does not have to be miles and miles away, because the local family member who has a job or has a spouse or has kids…or maybe would like to have a life can be just as challenged as the son or daughter time zones away.  Distance caregiving carries its own set of unique stressors tied to the challenges of absence and logistics.  But there are ways to make it work and to make it less stressful.

There are interpersonal tools that can make the caregiving more effective and easier for the distance caregiver:

  • Cultivate legal, financial and health resources close to your loved one
  • Plan and coordinate visits from other friends or family members to your loved one
  • Empower your care receiver to “own the choices” surrounding their support
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Leverage the technology of the 21st century:

  • Schedule a daily, regular time for talking with your care receiver
  • Use an app for face-to-face communication
  • Install smart devices that allow you to monitor home temperature and locks
  • Give your care receiver a wearable monitor for vitals and emergency calls
  • Place home cameras for security and to track medication adherence.

Not all tech is easy at first, so give yourself and your loved one a learning curve to become more proficient.  Inform local members of their care team about any monitoring that will inform their tasks.

In my next installment I’ll offer some tips on how to take a proactive role on the health care team while also keeping your care receiver empowered.  If you are one of the 44 million or know someone who is, please stay tuned…

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.

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