Long Distance Caregiving: Helping Your Parents When You Live Far Away
According to recent statistics, Canada’s elderly population is growing fast. By 2030, people over the age of 65 will make up nearly a quarter of the population. This means that helping parents as they age will become even more commonplace.
But what if you no longer live locally? What if you’ve taken a job on the other side of the country, a different part of the province or if you’ve gone to Europe on vacation? Being a long-distance caregiver comes with its own set of problems.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at how you can carry on supporting a parent even if you live a long way away. Are you ready to learn how to give your parent support without having to move back home? Then read on.
1. Set Time Aside to Keep In Touch
One of the most significant problems that the elderly face in our society is loneliness. When children leave home, empty nest syndrome can be a difficult problem for our parents. If a spouse dies, this loneliness becomes even stronger.
Setting time aside to keep in touch with your parents is one of the kindest ways to show love and care for your parent. A phone call may be the traditional way of reaching out to your ageing parents but thanks to improving internet infrastructure and evolving technology, video calling is better than ever.
While Zoom may be the app that’s grabbing all the headlines, it’s far from the only video chatting app available. It’s available on Facebook, Whatsapp, Facetime, and, of course, Skype. If you have children of your own, it’s also a great way of letting your parents see their grandchildren without having to make a big trip.
Other great ways to keep in touch with your parents include sending emails, texting, or even writing a letter. Getting in touch may well be the highlight of your parents’ day, so try to reach out as often as you can.
You could even play an old favourite board game or cards online, which is a great way to add a bit of levity to the situation. You don’t want all of your interactions with your parent to feel clinical, after all.
If your parents aren’t particularly tech-savvy, consider teaching them how to use these apps on your next in-person trip.
2. Help Manage Their Finances
Even if you aren’t paying any of your elderly parent’s living costs, they may well appreciate some help managing their finances to ensure that they have enough to get by. Thankfully, you don’t need to be nearby to help them out and offer them this kind of care.
For many less tech-savvy seniors, the idea of creating a spreadsheet on a computer is a foreign concept. Yet, as we know, these can make financial planning much easier, and be a significant help.
If your parent is happy sharing their financial details with you, you can create a budget for them, plan for savings and investments, and help them make sound financial decisions. If they are tech-savvy, you could create a collaborative document that you can both access and edit as required.
This kind of help goes a long way and doesn’t take up too much of your time while having a big impact on their life.
3. Helping to Arrange Medical Care
As the likely more tech-savvy member of this partnership, you can also help your parents by arranging for them to get the right medications and medical care. For instance, if they are having some issues with medication, you can research to see whether it is a common side effect or something more serious. You could also take a look and see if there are any interactions that they need to be aware of.
As well as this, you can help them get their prescriptions if they’re unable to leave the house. There are prescription delivery services available that offer home delivery, so arranging this for your ageing parent could make their lives easier.
If there are any health problems that they’re having, you could also research this for them and see what it could mean. You can also arrange a home visit or book an appointment for them at their doctor’s office.
You can probably find information like this much faster than they could, which saves you both a lot of time and confusion.
4. Arranging for Other Care
If your parent’s health declines further or they need more care, you can arrange for this at a distance. For instance, if they would benefit from a meals on wheels service, you could arrange for these to be brought to their house.
You can also hire a carer long-distance, though we would recommend having your parent meet them first so they can give their own approval or lack thereof on each candidate.
You can also help your parent out by organising transport and other things for them from a distance.
While it may not be something that you like to consider, you could also arrange for live-in care or for your parents to go into an assisted living facility if this becomes something that they need.
5. You Can Help the Rest of Your Family Care for Them
If other members of your family are doing most of the in-person caring for your parents, you can still help out. Caregiving is a very stressful job, and it’s easy for the carer to lose track of their own needs while helping others.
If you’re there to help your family member and to be someone that they can reach out to, vent to, and come to with problems, you could improve the quality of care that your parent receives as well as helping the carer stay healthy.
Mutual support is very important when it comes to caring. Make sure that the main caregiver knows that you’re always here, no matter what they need. You can also volunteer to do whatever you can do at a long-distance: even taking a little bit of the load from the main caregiver will be greatly appreciated.
Providing this kind of emotional support is important: remember that your parent isn’t the only person who needs care; the caregiver needs to ensure that they’re caring for themselves too.
6. Arrange for Conference Calls With Carers
If your parent lives in an assisted living facility, being able to host a conference call with the carers and your family could be a fantastic way to come to agreements about treatment and care options. Depending on your parent’s condition, this could also be a useful tool for staying in touch with doctors and talking about medical care for your parent.
Caring is a group effort and communication is essential for success. Maintain a contact list of everyone who needs to know and discuss your parent’s care and make sure that everyone stays updated with the latest news.
7. Have a Plan for Emergencies
Let’s say that your parent has a fall and their personal alert device goes off: they’ll get the care that they need but you still need to drop everything and go to them. If you don’t have a plan in place for emergencies like this, they will be much harder to deal with as you’ll need to make fast, last-minute arrangements.
Is there someone that you know who could step in and look after your children or pets? Do you have arrangements in place for if you have to leave? If not, making a plan for emergencies is absolutely vital.
This kind of planning can prevent much more stress during already stressful times like emergencies. Plan for them now, so you ca deal with them later.
8. Establish a Local Network of Contacts
If you’re not near your parent, then you can’t go and check up on therm if you think something’s wrong or if they need help. This can result in you feeling powerless: this is where having a group of local contacts is a huge boon.
Get the contact details for your parent’s neighbours, their friends, and anyone else who lives locally who you both trust. Then, if there’s an emergency or if you want someone to visit to make sure they’re okay, you’ll be able to contact someone who can go in your place.
Helping Parents Long-Distance Is Hard But Not Impossible
Helping parents from a long way away may seem like an impossible task at first but, as we’ve seen, there are a lot of ways that you can still help them out. For those ageing parents who live alone, a personal alert device could save their life: take a look around our site to learn more about them, or get in touch with us if you have any questions!