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Caregiving can be difficult in any situation, but it is especially difficult if you don’t live near your loved one. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), approximately 7 million adults provide caregiving for loved ones who live an hour or more away. Long-distance caregivers have to deal with many of the same issues as caregivers who live nearby, with the added difficulty of doing everything over the phone and on occasional visits.
To help long-distance caregivers, the NIA has written a booklet answering many common questions. Some tips from the book include:
•Geriatric care managers can help. Geriatric care managers are nurses or social workers who can assess your loved one’s needs and coordinate care through local community services. The cost can be expensive, but they provide a valuable service.
•Manage medical care. Make sure your parent signs a release form that allows you to discuss her medical condition with her doctor. If you go with your loved one to the doctor, make the most of it by bringing a list of prioritized questions and a list of all her medications, and take notes.
•It is normal to feel guilty. Many long-distance caregivers feel guilty about not being closer to their loved one, but it is important to remind yourself that you are doing the best that you can under the circumstances.
•Watch out for elder abuse. It can be difficult to assess the care your loved one is receiving. You may be able to get information from someone who lives closer or from a geriatric care manager. When you visit, look for signs of abuse, including: withdrawal from normal activities, strained or tense relations between your loved one and his caregiver, bedsores, and poor hygiene.