Many families live apart and rely on travel to visit and maintain relationships. As parents and grandparents age, this distance creates some unique challenges when those loved ones require more care.
We work with many families with this dynamic and these strategies work well to make long distance caregiving easier and more manageable. Here are some steps to create an effective plan and some tips to implement such a plan.
1. Create Your Long-Distance Caregiving Plan Early
The best long-distance caregiving plans involve early planning and dedication to create a plan that will function well. Early planning involves having family meetings before a crisis happens and including anyone who can assist in the caregiving process. Including professionals in this meeting helps to keep the topics relevant and allows for suggestions to ensure a successful plan.
At this meeting, it is critical to discuss the following:
- Your loved one’s physical condition
- Your loved one’s mental condition
- Any new diagnoses
- Any recent changes
- Identify each family member and the roles they are capable of and willing to handle
- Assign jobs to each family member
- Identify professionals that are needed to ensure the long-distance caregiving plan will function
2. Build a Caregiving Team
Build a team using both local family members or friends and those who live farther away. Involve professionals, like attorneys, medical providers, financial advisors, caregivers and geriatric care managers to assist in the plan. Many times, a geriatric care manager will be your local resource to both coordinate care and keep eyes on your loved on to ensure they are safe, well-cared for and there are no signs of elder abuse or neglect from friends, neighbors or caregivers.
3. Legal Authority: Determine if Guardianship is Necessary
Ensure your loved one has the proper estate planning documents in place. If they do not, ensure they take the steps to create an estate plan. If your loved one lacks the capacity to execute an estate plan, the guardianship process may become necessary.
Important documents include a durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, and a living will that documents your loved one’s end of life preferences. These documents ensure there is an individual named to manage both finances and healthcare decisions if your loved one is unable to do so themselves. A durable power of attorney allows an individual to pay bills and manage bank accounts during any periods of incapacity. Visit our Elder Law page for more information.
4. Make a Plan For Long Distance Tasks
With the implementation of technology, most tasks can be accomplished from a distance. This includes:
- Researching services, care providers and long-term care facilities
- Interviewing and hiring care providers
- Managing finances
- Paying bills
- Managing insurance
- Managing communications – conference or video calls with providers
- Staying in touch with your loved one by phone and video calls
- Making frequent visits to ensure the plan is functioning properly
5. Schedule Regular Visits at nursing homes and other facilities to identify any red flags
Visiting your loved one is incredibly important to ensure the safety of your loved one. It is important to make the most out of your visits. This includes meeting with your loved one alone, meeting with care providers, meeting with medical providers, and speaking to local family members, friends or neighbors. When visiting, it is critical to observe the state of the home or facility – is it clean? Is there food? Is mail being opened and bills sent to the appropriate person?
During these visits, it is critical to identify any other care needs that are not being addressed and to modify the plan if necessary. These visits are also a good way to identify any red flags or signs of abuse.
6. Have an Emergency Plan Ready
The most important task is to create an emergency plan. An emergency can happen any time and you need to be ready to react quickly. This allows you to ensure the proper care with little or no notice.
An emergency plan involves what hospital or physician will be contacted in an emergency. Ensure your loved one’s healthcare power of attorney is on file with their physician and local hospital system.
Make sure you have a plan in place for yourself in case you need to leave to provide care or support with little notice. If you have small children or pets, make sure you have sitters available. Identify a local family member or friend who can be available on short notice in an emergency.
7. Stay in Touch With Care ProvideRs and Loved Ones
Staying in touch with your loved one and all care providers is critical. This ensures you have current information about your loved one’s health and their needs. This can be done by phone, video call or even through emails and texts.
Long distance caregiving can seem impossible and overwhelming, but with some advance planning it becomes much more manageable. Creating a team and involving multiple individuals and professionals makes the task easier and less overwhelming. Knowing your loved one has resources and professionals involved can reduce your stress and guilt of living far away.
If you have any questions about long distance caregiving, or long term care planning in general, please contact Erika Apelis at 216.978.5353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.