long distance caregiving

As I mentioned in my last post, my family’s support for my Mother is getting more real. More Active. I also mentioned that “where to start” and “what resources are available” are two of our starting points. A third starting point is determining who among us has the necessary skills to manage the care that my mother will need.

None us has the complete set of skills necessary to individually manage my mother’s care. However, we each have certain strengths that when combined with the others should yield the desired results – making sure that our mother’s needs are being met. One of my brothers and one of my sisters are comfortable speaking with medical professionals and interpreting what they say. Another brother can fix anything. My other sister’s strong suit is working with numbers (paying bills, reviewing policies and reimbursement reports, etc.). I am hopeful that my strength is in communicating and keeping everybody informed and up to date. Combined, we should be able to handle the entry level family caregiving responsibilities. We all understand that as the situation progresses true professionals will need to be called in.

We are up against the challenge of long distance caregiving. My brothers and sisters live as close as forty five minutes away to six hours away. We all have varying levels of schedule flexibility. We will have to factor these situations into our plan of action.

That being stated, factors to consider in the long distance caregiving circumstance include:

  • How often both mentally and physically can each of us visit my mother? We have set up a telephone call schedule so that my other speaks with each one of us at least once a week.
  • Are we prepared to take on the role reversal where we are now taking care of our mother rather than the other way around?
  • How do we provide support and not step on anyone’s toes and not infringe upon my mother’s independent lifestyle?
  • How will long distance caregiving impact our home and work lives?

Although seemingly simple questions, our answers to them will have significant impact on each of us.

Some families may elect to hire a geriatric care manager to assess and evaluate a parent’s needs. Having a third party perform this task can be helpful in some situations whether it be uncertainty or delicate family relationships. If a geriatric care manager is hired, be sure to engage only one who is a licensed geriatric care manager and a member of a national association like the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA).

Other points for long distance caregivers to keep in mind include:

  • Make sure that at least one family member has written permission to receive medical, financial and legal information.
  • Start a notebook whether online or on paper that will include all vital information including medical, financial, legal information.
  • Plan your visits to have them be as beneficial to your parent as possible. They don’t have to be all “work.” Enjoy your time together.
  • Stay in touch. There are too many ways to stay in touch now. Don’t underestimate the importance of a phone call or email.
  • Learn as much as you can about your parents situation including illnesses, medicines, and resources that might be available to name a few.

I know that this information will be useful to me and I hope that it will be the same for you. I will keep you posted on how accurate my individual assessments prove to be and how we proceed. In the meantime check out our educational podcasts series here.