Do you live far away from elderly loved ones? If so, you know how difficult it can be to stay connected when you can't help with caregiving duties. You may feel guilty for not being closer. You may wish you could be there to help. Hopefully, you have siblings or other relatives nearby who can care for your relative, so you can rest easy knowing that their needs are being met.
However, living in a different city, state, or country from your loved one does not excuse you from caregiving responsibilities. It doesn’t remove you from the caregiving team. Caregiving is hard work. It’s time consuming, and it can be emotionally and physically taxing. Everyone who loves the older relative should be prepared to contribute to the person’s care so that one person doesn’t have to do it all.
How can you help when you are on the other side of the world? A good first step is to call a meeting with everyone who is involved with your loved one’s care. Acknowledge each person as a valued member of the team. Next, make a list of all the tasks that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. Discuss who is best suited to handling each task based on their strengths or abilities. Then, draw up a formal agreement about who will do what and put it in writing, so everyone is clear on their assigned roles.
Here are six more tips for long-distance caregivers:
- Keep track of clothing or other personal items your elderly relative may need. Shop online and have the items shipped directly to his or her home.
- Send photographs, greeting cards, and other small gifts on holidays or any day of the year. This helps keep you connected to the person and contributes to his or her mental and emotional wellbeing. A surprise letter or package in the mail may brighten their day even if they don’t remember who you are.
- If you can, contribute financially to the person’s care. Depending on your elderly relative’s financial situation, the primary caregiver may be paying out of pocket for some expenses.
- Don’t forget to inquire about how the other caregivers are doing. Be sure to thank them and show your appreciation for the excellent care that they give to your loved one. Make it a point to give them respite breaks at least a couple of times a year.
- Continue to communicate with the primary caregiver on an ongoing basis. Establish a regular time that you will meet by phone, Skype or Facebook. If your loved one has dementia, needs will constantly change. Be prepared to take on new action items. If the person seems overwhelmed and you are not clear how you can help, ask “What can I do?”
- Call in the reinforcements. That’s where working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm can be so beneficial. Getting a Life Care Plan for your loved one gives you and other family caregivers more than just support and guidance as your loved one’s needs change. It gives you confidence that you’re making the right decisions every step of the way.
No matter how many miles separate you from elderly loved ones, you can be involved in their care. Caregiving should be a shared responsibility. After all, it takes a village to care for elderly relatives!