A Long Way From Home – TIPS ON CAREGIVING LONG DISTANCE | By Cahal Carmody

Caregiving comes in all shapes and sizes as every family’s situation is unique. Sometimes we’re able to take on the role as our parents’ primary caregiver, but what if we’re not there? When our parents are at the point that they need an extra set of hands and we live in a different city, province or country, how can we be sure that they have the support they need?

Long-distance caregiving can involve various forms of support including emotional or financial, as well as helping to coordinate the services provided to our parents. No matter how big or small our roles, there are a number of steps we can take to be effective long-distance caregivers.

The first step is to schedule a meeting with family and others who are involved with your parents’ care. Don’t forget to include the person who is receiving the care as their wants and needs must be respected. In this meeting, which can be done in person, by phone or even by video chat, try to cover everyone’s goals, feelings and who will be in charge of each task.

If the care is needed because of an illness, read up on it and its treatments to help you better understand what they may be going through. This can also help you talk to the health-care providers more efficiently and effectively.

Being organized ahead of time is another way to be effective long-distance caregivers. Do you know where your loved ones keep their medical or financial information or how to reach key people if something happens to them? Are their wills up-to-date?  Do you know who holds power of attorney to act on their behalf if necessary? Are the required authorizations in place to allow the doctor to discuss your parents’ health with you so that you can stay up-to-date on any changes?

Be prepared for emergencies, which unfortunately are going to happen. Try to budget some money as a reserve in case you need to make unexpected trips to respond to a crisis.

Staying in touch with planned phone calls, emails or even video-chats are another great way to be an effective long-distance caregiver. Daily or weekly conversations not only show how much we care about them, but can often be a highlight of their day—especially if grandchildren are involved.

Your parents’ neighbours and friends can be another great resource.  If they see your loved ones on a regular basis, they may be able to communicate to us about how they are doing.

You may find it beneficial to hire a homecare agency to help your parents with activities such as cooking, bathing, laundry and other activities of daily living. In-home caregivers can help maintain your parents’ independence as well as acting as your “eyes and ears” to help give you peace of mind about their health and well-being.

Sometimes, long-distance caregivers can feel guilty about not being able to do enough or spend more time with a family member in need of care. Taking some of these steps may not seem like a lot, but remember, you’re doing the best you can and help is available.

CAHAL CARMODY is the owner of Premier HomeCare Services Toronto Central, which is accredited with exemplary standing, the highest level awarded by Accreditation Canada TM. Premiertorontocentral.com

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