Long Distance Family Caregiving: Making it Work

Anyone who has been responsible for the safety and well-being of an aging loved one knows how difficult and numerous the challenges are that must be solved seemingly every day.

All those unique challenges become even more overwhelming when you are trying to do them from afar.

Long distance caregivers total almost 7 million in the US, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. In addition to the concerns that arise with your senior loved one almost daily, long distance caregivers also feel added guilt and anxiety since they can’t be “right there” if needed.

There is an additional stressor for long distance caregivers and that is financial. Not just hiring people to do what you would if you lived close by, but also the cost of travel back and forth just to check up on things on a regular basis. It is estimated that long distance caregivers spend almost $8,700 on average each year, which is twice as much as someone who lived nearby.

Long distance caregivers who have spent more of their earnings in caring for aging family members report:

  • 49% cut back on their personal leisure time
  • 47% have reduced or spent less on vacations
  • 38% have reduced or stopped altogether on saving for their own future!!
  • 48% have spent sick or vacation time from work to care for a loved one
  • 37% have cut back hours or quit their jobs!!
  • 17% have taken on more hours or another job to pay caregiving expenses

Making Caregiving From a Distance a Little Easier

  1. When you are able to visit – take a little extra time observing the home environment to see if you can spot any warning signs. Your senior loved ones will not want you to worry, so may not tell you anything is wrong. You will have to be a detective to see for yourself. Look for unpaid bills, expired food in the refrigerator, weight loss, poor personal hygiene, dents in the car, and unkempt house or yard to name a few.
  2. Set up a Skype account and teach your loved one how to use it so you can see them for yourself and spot any changes early.
  3. Invest in a home monitoring system that can remotely alert you to changes in their daily routines. Discuss it together before doing so, though, addressing the benefit monitoring would provide, which is enabling your loved one to live independently even longer.
  4. Create a network of family, friends or neighbors to check up on your senior loved one and report back to you if anything out of the normal pattern emerges. This could also give them a place to go in a weather emergency.
  5. Complete HIPAA paperwork with your senior loved one’s health care providers so they can give you direct medical information if you need it.
  6. Investigate medical monitoring which allows you to access data remotely such as blood pressure monitoring, blood sugar testing, medication administration or weights. You can be alerted if any unusual readings are recorded that might require medical attention in advance of an emergency.
  7. Prepare a durable power of attorney so you will have access to financial and health records.
  8. Arrange for regular house cleaning, yard maintenance, grocery or pharmacy deliveries, direct deposit of checks, online bill paying, home delivered meals, or any other services your senior loved one requires.

Once you have some of these things arranged, any other daily problems will be easier to handle and you can focus on enjoying your loved one!