I want to spread the word about the help available to long-distance caregivers.
Fifteen percent of the nation’s caregivers are long-distance caregivers and that number is expected to double by 2020.
All senior caregiving can be difficult at times, but long-distance caregivers certainly face unique challenges. Thankfully, there are a growing number of technologies and services available to help them provide quality care to their loved ones.
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Tips for Caregiving Long-Distance: Transportation, Communication, and Emergency Preparedness
Millions of people all across the United States act as an informal caregiver for a senior who needs help with their day-to-day operations. While some are lucky enough to live near their senior loved one, many people have to handle their caregiving duties long-distance. While difficult, it’s not an impossible endeavor. A lot of the work comes with preparing your loved one with the services and support they need until your next visit. The following advice can help long-distance caregivers arrange necessary transportation, communicate more effectively, and prepare for emergencies with their senior loved ones.
Alternative Transportation for Seniors
Among the many changes our bodies go through in our seniors years, most of us will find that our reflexes are not as quick as they were when we were younger. Because of this, many seniors can no longer drive safely. The loss of one’s ability to drive independently can be difficult. It seriously impedes on a person’s independence and agency. Fortunately, there are available options for seniors who want to maintain a healthy social life outside the home.
Public transportation is inexpensive, but it may not be the most reliable means of transportation depending on the city. Furthermore, not all mass transit options are readily accessible for people who need to use mobility aids.
Rideshare services are more reliable and affordable than taxis, but they have to be accessed through mobile apps and a smartphone. This may be a difficult option for seniors who are less technologically literate.
Always check with community organizations for senior transportation services. Volunteer driving programs, medical facility transportation, and community paratransit programs shuttle seniors to designated drop-offs around town.
Emotional support is just as important as being there for the important doctor’s appointments and helping seniors pay their bills. The best way to support seniors emotionally is through consistent communication. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to stay connected even when you’re long-distance. It’s important to check in daily — twice a day, if possible. Making video calls can help seniors feel like you’re right there by them. If your senior loved one has a smartphone, teach them how to use Facetime or an equivalent app for video calls. You can also look into setting up a video chat app like Skype on a senior-friendly computer.
Staying Up to Date on Insurance
Since your loved one relies on Medicare to cover their health care, it’s important to stay up to date on what their policies cover and what will need to be paid out of pocket. Since many seniors simply do not feel comfortable using the internet and may find it too complicated, it could fall on your shoulders to check out the changes Medicare makes every year. Thankfully, there are many informative guides that can help you sort through Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, as well as provide information about annual enrollment periods.
Preparing for Emergencies
Having emergency plans in place helps provide peace of mind when you can’t be there with your senior loved one. When it comes to preparing for an emergency in another town, you have to have help. Connect with friends, family, or community members who are willing to lend a hand should your senior loved one encounter an emergency situation. If your loved one has memory problems such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, make sure they have readily-visible identification on them at all times, such as a bracelet or pendant. Even better, purchase them a smartwatch (available online for $199.99) or another type of wearable device outfitted with GPS that locates the senior should they wander off. Seniors with mobility issues may benefit from a medical alert device (quality devices start at $19.95 a month) that automatically contacts emergency services should they fall or physically injure themselves.
Other tips for emergency preparedness include:
Move seniors to a bedroom on the bottom floor, and map escape routes.
To ensure that your loved one’s house stays tidy and clutter-free, which will help prevent falls and allow easy access in case of an emergency, hire someone to keep things tidy.
Talk with your senior loved one’s neighbors, and get their contact information.
Make sure your senior loved one’s home is properly outfitted with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
If you are a long-distance caregiver, it can be hard not being there for your senior loved one at all times. When you’re away, connect them with available transportation services so they can maintain a healthy social life. Communicate regularly as a means of caring for their emotional health. Finally, plan ahead for emergencies so you don’t become overwhelmed by anxiety surrounding all the possible what-if scenarios.
Here are a couple of good resources? Long-distance caregivers actually experience more emotional stress than other caregivers. My hope is that the information provided will bring them some peace of mind.
This link provides information on the top-rated medical alert systems of 2019 https://www.safety.com/best-medical-alerts/