Caring for an aging parent in Michigan can be stressful. According to the American Psychological Association, 80% of Baby Boomers report high levels of caregiving stress.
Playing an active role in your senior loved one’s care when you live in another city can compound the worry. How can you stay informed? Be involved in decisions? How can you make sure your loved one is safe? How can you show that you care when you aren’t present?
Quality, long-distance caregiving may seem impossible. But with some organization, technology tools, advance planning and a little change in attitude, you can take an active role in your senior loved one’s care.
Here are some strategies for worry-free long-distance caregiving:
Communicate with Local Caregivers.
Whether your parent is aging in place at home or in an assisted-living or dementia-care community, you need to establish a regular line of communication with caregivers who see them on a daily basis.
• Ask in-home caregivers and visiting nurses to telephone you during or after visits. Adjust the frequency of phone calls based on your senior loved one’ needs and your schedule. For example, you could also set up an every-other-day phone call or a weekly phone call.
• In an assisted living community, connect with the social worker or activities director who can share regular updates with you.
• If your senior loved one is in physical therapy, schedule a regular call to learn about the progress he or she is making. Your aging family member will need to give the physical therapist permission to share the information first.
• If you have siblings who are sharing care close by, stay in contact with them, too. Not only can they keep you informed, but they will need your sympathetic ear. Don’t expect them to call you. They are likely overwhelmed with all the demands caregiving creates, in addition to caring for their own family and career.
Remember, phone calls aren’t the only way to stay in touch. In-home caregivers can help your senior loved one use Skype or a mobile app that will allow you to chat face-to-face over a computer, tablet or phone. This can also help you to build strong relationships with the caregiving team.
Stay close with your mom and dad.
Even if you talk with local caregivers every day, it is important that you still connect with your senior loved one. This will reduce the feelings of distance between you. Your parent will feel your presence and that you are “there for them.” Calling daily will also help you track differences in their health and cognition that you can then discuss with the caregiving team.
Use technology as your eyes and ears.
While you can’t always be in the house with your loved one, you can come pretty close with monitoring technology. Consider installing a remote monitoring system to help you keep tabs on your aging loved one.
• The VueZone Remote Video Monitoring System lets you oversee your aging parent’s activities by video feed on your computer.
• The BeClose system works with wearable tracker technology that monitors your loved one’s daily routine. You receive text alerts, emails and phone calls if your parent strays from his or her normal activities.
Work remotely with other caregivers.
If your siblings and other family members are managing all the hands-on care, you can share some of the load from a distance. You might offer to make phone calls and schedule appointments, pay bills online, do internet shopping for mom, or create her shopping list in Google Drive and share with the family.
Coordinate a caregiving network.
Even though you cannot keep your loved one company on a regular basis, you can work to create a community of visitors who can check on your loved one and keep them socializing. Talk regularly with your aging parent’s grandchildren, neighbors and friends. Encourage them to make a phone call or stop by for a visit. Contact your senior loved one’s church to inquire about services and visits for shut-ins.
Be prepared for changes.
Work with your siblings and caregiving team in advance to create an emergency plan. In the event of a blizzard or power outage, where will dad go? If your aging parent has to have surgery, who will be available to care for them during recovery? What if your senior loved one can no longer stay safely in their home?
Investigate options for short-term respite care or adult day care. This service is perfect for senior loved ones recovering from an illness or injury, or when family caregivers are taking a vacation.
To learn more about respite care for your senior loved on in Michigan, contact the Heritage Senior Community near their home.