by Shelly Slaczka
It is challenging being a caregiver, but it is an extra obstacle trying to do it from a distance. Creating a contact list, collecting important information, making visits productive, looking into public benefits online, getting help with managing the care, and keeping communication open are ways to help cope with managing the distance.
Create a contact list of addresses and phone numbers of friends, neighbors, doctors, faith leaders and others familiar with your loved one who can be reached in an emergency. Try to include at least one person close by who can easily check in. Consider giving this person a house key with permission of your loved one. This list of people may also be able to help out with some needs such as shopping, transportation or visits. Collect important information such as medical, insurance, utilities, financial, and legal information before a crisis. Keep it organized and easy to get to.
Take advantage of your time with your loved one. Enjoy your time, but make sure you assess their changing needs. Decide together what needs to be taken care of.
If time allows, do what you can to help take care of some of those needs. Pay attention to anything out of the ordinary and safety hazards. Check to see if your loved one's daily needs are still being adequately met and see if help is needed.
Look online to get an idea of the different public assistance programs for which your loved one might be eligible. You can find state, federal and private benefits programs available where your loved one lives by a simple internet search. There are programs that can help them save money and cover costs of everyday expenses.
Get help with managing the care. Most communities have professionals who can measure your loved one's abilities and needs and help set up a plan for care. One form of assistance is through government-funded programs. A private geriatric care manager is another option for professional care. If your loved one has long-term care insurance, this might be covered under the policy.
Be sensitive to your loved one's view of the situation and keep the lines of communication open. It is difficult for anyone at first to agree to letting a stranger into their home, even when there is a need. Your loved one needs you to be understanding and reassured that they are not dealing with the challenges alone.