Family caregiving is an official term that recognizes the informal (unpaid) commitment and sacrifices thousands of us make each year to take care of aging or ailing loved ones. Often the primary family caregiver is a person who lives nearby, but that is not always the case. If you live further away from the person in your care, you may experience intense feelings of anxiousness or guilt while you’re away. What can you do if you’re caregiving for someone who doesn’t live nearby? Here are some ideas to reduce the burden of care at a distance and remove potential obstacles in the event of an emergency.
Sign them up for an emergency alert service. When caregiving at a distance, one of the most worrying things is the potential for an emergency while you’re away. To put both you and your loved ones at ease, sign up for a wearable emergency alert system. In the event that your loved one falls, gets injured, or is stuck somewhere, they can tap on the emergency alert device which will immediately connect them with help. This will provide a type of insurance against the worst and a bit of ease while you’re away.
Have a prepared list of services near your loved one. Take the time to prepare a list of people and services that are local to your care recipient’s location. This could include neighbors, meals on wheels, caterers/restaurants that deliver, transportation services, or home care services. By having a prepared list, you’re ready in the event something happens or a plan changes and you need to quickly mobilize someone nearby.
Plan doctor and other medical appointments in advance. Try to schedule upcoming doctor visits, emotional/physical therapy sessions, or other such appointments in a group around when you can be there. By planning ahead, not only will that ensure you’re around to take them to and from the appointment, but it can also reduce your stress level by ensuring that you’re always in the loop with what is going on. Preparing for a doctor visit ahead of time can help you to get the most out of it both in and beyond the appointment.
Arrange phone call check-ins. A quick call each morning can be a helpful arrangement for both you and the loved one in your care. You can also arrange times for others to check in as well (other family members, local community members such as a church, other interest group, nonprofit, or local Area Agency on Aging). These frequent calls will help keep your peace of mind and will help to show your loved one that they are loved, cared for, and thought of frequently.
Have an emergency plan. In case of an emergency, have a plan. You aren’t nearby to respond as quickly as you’d otherwise probably like to, but that doesn’t mean you need to be caught unprepared. Have a neighbor you can call and discuss a plan with so they know exactly what to do on their end in an emergency situation. On your end, have all documents ready to go (like medical records and prescription information) so that in the event something happens, all you have to worry about is getting there.
Caregiving is a difficult role, and being responsible for the care of a loved one who isn’t nearby can add burden and extra obstacles. A bit of preparation can make all the difference in your daily stress and your loved one’s comfort.
If you still have questions about this or want more information throughout your journey as a caregiver, CRCOC is here to help. Check out our free resources for family caregivers by clicking here or give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you.