When your loved one lives in another city or state, ensuring they have the best care can be tricky, but there are solutions — despite social distancing. Janice Baldon Gutter, author of Caregiving: A Daughter’s Story and Sheila Carter, founder and president of Heartsong Memory Care, share several suggestions on how to plan, coordinate, and manage long-distance caregiving and lessen the stress.
First, develop a family plan ahead of time. “Start early,” Janice says. “It will make life easier and take away some of the stress.” For example, compile the paperwork you need, such as wills, updated copies of insurance papers, and medical cards, and keep them together in an envelope so you know where they are.
You’ll need to have access to medical records. Make sure that the power of attorney and health privacy papers are signed, giving you permission to access information through technology.
You’ll need lots of support for when you aren’t there. So, talk to your human resources department about its employee assistance plan, which provides local and national help with finding assistance for relatives. “It’s a very under-used benefit of employment that a lot of people don’t know about,” she says.
Share contact information with trusted neighbors and friends. They can be sought to check up on a loved one.
Hire in-home care for your loved one. “There are a lot of expanded services through Medicaid in Kentucky. People who might have been using adult daycare services through Medicaid can also qualify for in-home care. You can contact the state Medicaid office or your loved one’s case manager to see if they qualify for these services,” Sheila says.
Make sure you or the agency does background checks on people that you hire to care for your parent.
Contact the city government where your loved one resides, such as the Department on Aging in Louisville, to see what services it provides. These agencies often offer transportation to take people to and from the doctor, help finding senior housing, lists of businesses that provide healthcare workers, and information about Meals on Wheels.
Contact churches, fraternities, sororities, and other civic groups in the city of your loved one to see what services they provide. Some of these organizations will check up on a loved one. “You need to think outside the box,” Janice says.
Check out the national website, Eldercare Locator, which can connect older residents and their families with services.
Know the health condition of your loved one yourself, Janice says. “Don’t be dictated to by the healthcare professionals,” she says. “Be a participant in their care and decisions.”
Teach your loved one how to use technology such as Skype and FaceTime so you can call and see the person in real time. You can also ask a hired caregiver or friend to set up a video call while they are visiting with your loved one. “If you are using a hired caregiver, this reassures your loved one that it is OK to talk to this person,” says Sheila.
Keep your phone on sound or vibrate for those emergency calls.
P.S. Is your loved one having problems with making financial decisions?
BY MARIE BRADBY