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Caregiving: Tips for long-distance caregivers
Long-distance caregiving poses unique challenges. Find out what you can do to help your loved one from afar — and how to make the most of personal visits.By Mayo Clinic staff
If you live far away from a loved one who needs care, you might wonder what you can do to help. Start by understanding options for long-distance caregiving, from gathering information and coordinating services to providing occasional respite for a primary caregiver.
What is long-distance caregiving?
Long-distance caregiving can take many forms. From afar, you might:
- Provide emotional support to a primary caregiver
- Coordinate services for a loved one, such as arranging for household help or in-home care or arranging a move to a nursing facility
- Manage a loved one's medical bills or records
You might also set aside time for occasional personal visits.
How can I keep on top of my loved one's care from long distance?
You can take many steps to be an effective long-distance caregiver. For example:
- Get organized. Compile notes about your loved one's medical condition and any legal or financial issues. Include contact numbers, insurance information, account numbers and other important details.
- Schedule a family meeting. Gather family and friends involved in your loved one's care in person, by phone or by Web chat. Discuss your goals, air feelings and divide up duties. Appoint someone to summarize the decisions made and distribute notes after the meeting. Be sure to include the loved one in need of care in the decision-making process.
- Research your loved one's illness and treatment. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through, the course of the illness, what you can do to prevent crises and how to assist with disease management. It might also make it easier to talk to your loved one's doctors.
- Keep in touch with your loved one's providers. In coordination with your loved one and his or her other caregivers, schedule conference calls with doctors or other health care providers to keep on top of changes in your loved one's health. Be sure to have your loved one sign a release allowing the doctor to discuss medical issues with you — and keep a backup copy in your files.
- Ask your loved one's friends for help. Stay in touch with your loved one's friends and neighbors. If possible, ask them to regularly check in on your loved one. They may be able to help you understand what's going on with your loved one on a daily basis.
- Seek professional help. If necessary, hire someone to help with meals, personal care and other needs. A geriatric care manager or social worker also may be helpful in organizing your loved one's care.
- Plan for emergencies. Set aside time and money in case you need to make unexpected visits to help your loved one.
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- So far away: Twenty questions for long distance caregivers. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/5D1DCFC1-4E53-4788-B35F-02ADB61DF2F9/0/So_Far_Away_FINAL707.pdf. Accessed Feb. 24, 2010.
- Long-distance caregiving. Family Caregiver Alliance. http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=854. Accessed Feb. 24, 2010.
- Handbook for long-distance caregivers. Family Caregiver Alliance. http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content/pdfs/op_2003_long_distance_handbook.pdf. Accessed Feb. 24, 2010.
- Long-distance caregiving. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_long_distance_caregiving.asp. Accessed Feb. 24, 2010.