OK. Your 80-year-old mother fell and was lucky enough to avoid a hip fracture, although a few bruises left her a bit sore. You know this because she told you during the daily telephone calls you religiously make to keep abreast of her health and well-being. If you lived next door, you could simply walk over and visit and maybe drive her for an X-ray. If she lived with you, you could walk into the next room and see the results. But you live in the East Coast and she lives 3,000 miles away in Idaho on the old family potato farm and has absolutely no intention of leaving. You can’t sell your property and move out there, however, you know absolutely nothing about potatoes. She’s stubborn. And you’re tired of worrying about her safety.
It’s time for some long-distance caregiving.
Here are some tips:
- First, get written permission from your loved one that allows you to have access to all their records under the HIPPA regulations regarding privacy. Make sure all their doctors also have signed copies as well. This will give you direct access to their practitioners and eliminate any second-hand, and possibly incorrect, information your loved one may give about their status.
- Also, conference calls during doctor’s visits are regularly used in these circumstances. Don’t be afraid to ask for one.
- Try to find people who live near your loved one who can give you accurate feedback as to their status. This may be your other parents, the loved one’s best friend, or a concerned neighbor. A social worker may also be able to provide you with updates.
- Compile a notebook either on paper or online, that includes any vital information needed for your loved one like medical issues, doctors’ contact numbers, financial issues, etc. Keep it up to date and inform all caregivers where it can be located if needed. Again, keep it up to date.
- It may benefit your loved one to have a cell phone and make sure they know how to use it. Make sure all personal telephone numbers, doctors’ numbers, care-giver numbers, and family numbers are programmed into their landline.
- Place all emergency numbers in large letters, in view of the loved one on the refrigerator, near the phone, and in other places you feel they may need to be.
- Most local fire departments, police departments and councils on aging, have a daily call system where they call your loved at a specific time of day and if they do not receive an answer, send someone by to make a safety check.
- Lastly, check online for resources near your loved one and give each one a call to see what services they provide. They may also be able to offer additional support but you won’t know unless you contact them.
None of these suggestions are the same as you being there in person, but in a world made smaller by technology, some services can function as viable supports in your absence and relieve a lot of stress in the interim. Being involved at a distance isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s our only answer.
1. Getting Started with Long-Distance Caregiving. National Institute on Aging: U.S Department of Health & Human Services.