Long distance caregiving: tips for caring from afar
It’s hard to see someone you love struggling with old age or a medical condition – it’s even harder to support them when you live far away. How do you know if they can handle daily chores? Are they taking their meds on time? Do they pay their bills and visit their doctor when needed?
Like you, almost six million individuals in the United States are looking for ways to care for a loved one when they cannot be there in person.1 Here are some tips to help with long distance caregiving.
Focus on what you CAN do as a caregiver
The first step is to understand that you can’t do it all. Be kind to yourself and see where you can be of help.
If you are not the primary caregiver for your loved one, talk to the primary caregiver and understand where they might need help. Evaluate your strengths and offer to handle certain aspects of care to lighten their load.
If you’re a natural planner, for example, you can schedule doctors’ visits, track prescriptions and refills, or order groceries and household supplies online.
If you’re comfortable with technology, troubleshoot phone or computer-related issues, and teach them how to use helpful apps to book cabs, pay bills, or receive timely reminders to take their meds on time.
Maybe financial planning is your strength. In that case, you could manage budgets, investments, insurance, or Medicare-related paperwork.
Evaluate where you need help
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85% of older adults have at least one chronic illness, and 60% live with two or more.2 Keeping these conditions in check often means taking multiple meds on time, which can get complicated.
Here’s where long distance caregiving can help loved ones stay on track. One simple way to offer remote assistance is to set up a medication management service like Hero. However, caregiving can be difficult when taking care of older adults with dementia, cancer, or other conditions that require round-the-clock support.
Someone who has dementia may be able to live alone during the early stages of the disease, but as their condition progresses, they may need supervised care. A loved one with cancer may need someone to drive them to radiation and chemotherapy sessions. Plus, they may experience fatigue, nausea, and other effects of the disease and therapy. This can often drain them of the energy needed to manage household chores and stay on top of their meds every day.
If there is no caregiver living less than an hour away, you may need to hire in-home care or consider senior living facilities.
Optimize in-person visits
Make the most of your in-person visits. Observe your loved one as they go through their day, and assess where they may need help.
- Check the medicine cabinet. Counting their pills during each visit can help you understand if their meds are being taken on time. You may set up a med management service like Hero, which includes automatic refills with free delivery. The Hero app also sends notifications when meds are missed or if extra meds are dispensed
- Check the refrigerator and throw out food that may be rotten.
- Look around their home for signs of neglect.
- Assess if they struggle with sorting mail, bathing, driving, and other tasks.
- Evaluate if they have adequate daily social support.
It can be overwhelming to try to accomplish multiple tasks during one visit. Before your visit, give your loved one or their primary caregiver a call to see where you can be most helpful during your stay.
Set up technology that supports your caregiving journey
Long distance caregiving can be stressful. Luckily, using technology for high-priority tasks can help you stay organized.
For example, someone who skips their meds or takes the wrong dose may fall, accidentally overdose, or need to get hospitalized. This happens more often than you may think; in fact, half of all American adults do not take their pills as prescribed.3
A Hero subscription offers a medication dispenser and app that stores, sorts, dispenses, tracks, and refills your loved one’s medication regimen at the push of a button. With one less thing to worry about, you can have more free time to focus on other tasks and quality time during your in-person visits.
We hope these tips help you along your long-distance caregiving journey! Need more advice? Caregiving expert, Elizabeth Miller, offers 12 Tips for Long-distance caregivers.
1. AARP Family Caregiving, National Alliance for Caregiving. (2020). Research Report: Caregiving in the U.S.https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/full-report-caregiving-in-the-united-states.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.001.pdf
2. Percent of U.S. adults 55 and over with chronic conditions. (2019, February 7). Retrieved April 20, 2022, from Cdc.gov website: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/adult_chronic_conditions.htm
3. Brown, M. T., & Bussell, J. K. (2011). Medication adherence: WHO cares? Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Mayo Clinic, 86(4), 304–314. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0575
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The contents of the above article are for informational and educational purposes only. The article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified clinician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or its treatment and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of information published by us.