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Advice for Long-Distance Caregivers

Sometimes, the needs of our careers and immediate family require that we move farther from our parents than we might like. Living far away often means only seeing them face-to-face over the holidays, at special events, or when we can find the time for a visit.
It’s natural for us to want to be there when our older loved ones need support as they age, but living far away might hamper our efforts to provide the personal support we know they need.

People in this situation are considered long-distance caregivers. Although they’re not around the corner from their loved ones, they can still provide care from afar through research, planning, and staying connected.

How to watch for changes in your loved one from a distance

Many families keep in contact through visual communication technology, such as Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. These apps provide an extra personal touch to your check-ins and can allow you to look for changes in the person’s mood, demeanour, or appearance.

For example, your parent might seem unusually disengaged, distracted, or moody. They might also appear unkempt, indicating they haven’t showered recently, or are still in nightclothes late in the day. You might also notice if they have trouble moving or standing, suggesting mobility issues.

Try to have a peek at their surroundings in the background to ensure that their living space appears clean and tidy and isn’t fraught with clutter or refuse.

You can also watch for signs if you’re speaking over the telephone. Are they asking the same questions repeatedly or wanting to talk about something you’ve already discussed? Do they speak calmly and confidently or seem stressed, distracted, or indifferent?

Everyone has an “off” day, so there may be no reason to be alarmed if you notice something unusual. However, if these changes last for more than a week or if a friend or family member has also noticed that something is different, asking your loved one about it might be a prudent move.

Create a contact list

This is a good time to start enlisting the help of trusted friends or other family members to participate in the person’s care by being available if your loved one needs help..

Create a contact list and ask permission to share it with everyone so all participants are in the loop. You can divide the list into “primary” and “backup” caregivers so your parent knows who to call first.

You can also print and laminate the contact list so it’s handy for your loved one to refer to. It can be attached to the fridge or placed in the person’s purse for easy retrieval on the go.

Discussing your concerns with your parents

You want to ensure our older loved ones are physically and mentally well but need to be gentle when discussing your concerns. A conversation with the best intentions can quickly put your loved one on the defensive, especially if they think their capabilities are being questioned. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to have and not rooted in anger. In many cases, your loved one might not want to be a burden to anyone, especially their children. They may also be afraid of losing their independence.

Ask gentle questions about their health and how they’re getting by. Be patient. They may resist opening up at first but will appreciate your love and interest. Over time, your loved one will likely start sharing any health concerns they have.

You can also remind them that if they need in-home care help, you’d be happy to arrange it. However, it’s important to avoid forcing the issue and always let them have the final decision. We have a helpful article on how to talk to parents who may be resisting the idea of in-home care support.

Get informed of your loved one’s health needs

Have someone your loved one trusts accompany them to doctor’s appointments and have them inform you after every visit. You may also be able to join the discussion over the telephone to ask questions and hear feedback directly from the doctor.

If the person is comfortable with the idea, you can also hire a local caregiving service to accompany them to medical appointments if none of your contacts is available. They will ensure the person arrives at the appointment and home again safely. You can opt to have the caregiver attend the actual consultation if needed.

Once you know all about your loved one’s situation and collect care recommendations from their doctor, you can start developing a plan that ensures that your parents get all the help they need.

Managing care from a distance

Your care plan can include trusted friends and other family members who live close by. Find out their availability and set up a calendar that involves everyone.

You can also research organizations in your loved one’s community that offer meal delivery programs, transportation services, or casual visitation. These services can bridge the gaps in schedules when no one else is available.

One concern many families often have is whether their loved one is correctly taking their medications. Electronic medication managers can help by providing the correct dosage at the right times, with alerts informing you if medication hasn’t been taken.

Another great way to help protect your loved one is to invest in a smartwatch with apps that can detect falls, track heart rates, and provide emergency communication in critical situations. Medical alert devices can also offer a level of added protection, bringing peace of mind that although you don’t live close by, help for your loved one is never far away.

Seek professional support

You can also sign up for support services from organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Society Toronto and Parkinson’s Canada for in-home support referrals, resources, and virtual events to help you manage your loved one’s care from a distance. The City of Toronto also offers many support services and solutions to help life easier for older people.

You can also hire a professional eldercare agency for personalized, one-on-one in-home care. In-home caregivers are often registered nurses or PSWs, depending on the level of care your loved one needs. They can also keep you in the loop about how things are going or if they believe a change to the care plan is in order. You still manage the care plan while the caregivers handle all the care duties for you.

When you’re ready for professional in-home care, CareHop offers all the services you need for comprehensive, quality elder care you count on.

Quality in-home elder care services in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton

CareHop specializes in providing quality eldercare services when families need a helping hand, even when you live far away from your loved one.

Over caregivers provide professional in-home nursing care, PSW services, and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care that focuses on your loved one’s specific needs. We also offer in-home elder care services such as homemaking and meal preparation, personal care, activities, and casual companionship.

CareHop’s elder care services are designed to positively impact your loved one’s life throughout the year or at certain times when you need us the most.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion to discover how we can help you.

About the Author

Michael Lu is the founder of CareHop. He started the business inspired by his Grandmother to look at ageing as a happy experience to bring sunshine into the homes of others.

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