Getting started with long-distance caregiving

Anyone, anywhere, can be a long-distance caregiver, no matter your gender, income, age, social status, or employment. If you are living an hour or more away from a person who needs your help, you’re probably a long-distance caregiver.

What can I really do from far away?

Long-distance caregivers take on different roles. You may:

  • Help with finances, money management, or bill paying
  • Arrange for in-home care—hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help get needed durable medical equipment
  • Locate care in an assisted living facility or nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility)

I’m new to long-distance caregiving—what should I do first?

  • Ask the primary caregiver, if there is one, and the care recipient how you can be most helpful
  • Talk to friends who are caregivers to see if they have suggestions about ways to help
  • Find out more about local resources that might be useful
  • Develop a good understanding of the person’s health issues and other needs

Where can I find local resources for my family member? to find local services for older adults and their families.

As a caregiver, what do I need to know about my family member’s health?

Learn as much as you can about your family member’s condition and any treatment. This can help you understand what is going on, anticipate the course of an illness, prevent crises, and assist in healthcare management.

Get written permission, as needed under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, to receive medical and financial information. To the extent possible, the family member with permission should be the one to talk with all healthcare providers.

Get tips for caregivers to make doctor’s appointments easier.

How can I be most helpful during my visit?

Talk to the care recipient ahead of time and find out what he or she would like to do during your visit. Also check with the primary caregiver, if appropriate, to learn what he or she needs, such as handling some caregiving responsibilities while you are in town. This may help you set clear-cut and realistic goals for the visit. Decide on the priorities and leave other tasks to another visit.

How can I stay connected from far away?

Try to find people who live near your loved one and can provide a realistic view of what is going on. This may be your other parent. A social worker may be able to provide updates and help with making decisions.

Don’t underestimate the value of a phone and email contact list. It is a simple way to keep everyone updated on your parents’ needs.

Where can I find local resources for my family member?

Searching online is a good way to start collecting resources. Here are a few potentially helpful places to look:

Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)

National Institute on Aging website

Family Care Navigator

Your state government’s website

You might also check with local senior centers. Learn more about long-distance caregiving.

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