Caregiving From A Distance
In this day and age, and routinely in Schuylkill County, family members do not live local thus are not physically present to care for aging parents or loved ones. It is not possible to drop your life and return to the county to be here for the person during their time of need. This does not mean that you can’t “be there for them” and be helpful no matter how far away you may live.
Aging is a normal part of life. As we enter into the later years of life, medical issues arise. No one wants to admit that they need assistance—especially from our children! Talking about the kind of medical care one would want if they become seriously ill or incapacitated is very hard. Yet the best time to discuss life choices is before the decision needs to be made. Being prepared and knowing what the individual wants is priceless.
For those living a distance away, it is best to visit with the loved one and start this discussion face to face. A possible entry would be to state that you have just made your living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare and discuss what you have chosen regarding end of life measures and who you have determined to make decisions for you if you should be incapacitated. For some families, a conversation about who would like Grandma’s china might be a gentle way to start the conversation. On an impersonal note, discussing a TV show, newspaper article or movie might be the way to start. A living will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is not set in stone! They can be revised and updated as often as an individual wants. The person chosen for this does not need to live close to act as Power of Attorney! Lori’s Angels has a booklet available in their office for anyone interested that fully explains the long term care options in Pennsylvania. The companion video is on our web page’s home page. This booklet explains who does what and where financial assistance may be obtained (based on eligibility).
In any case, sit down with the loved one and family members and discuss what options are available and determine what actions your loved one wants while still thinking rationally—not emotionally, about the issue. Decide who can do what to help the loved one maintain the most independent life as possible. There are plenty of things family members or friends near and far can do to make life safe and enjoyable for a loved one as they age.
Things a long distance caregiver can do that can offer support for the person(s) needing care or for the local caregiver providing assistance are plenty. Helping with finances, getting medical information and status updates, interviewing for help—housekeeping assistance or for a home care aide, arranging for grocery deliveries and most importantly, remaining in contact via telephone and when you can, visiting. Emotional support for the primary caregiver is invaluable! Researching on line the medical issues that have arisen and what treatment options might be available, researching medications and side effects to watch for.
learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness, medications and available resources.
Make sure at least one person has written permission to receive medical and financial information.
Put together a log of all medical care, medications, social services, contact numbers and financial issues. Keep it up to date.
Plan to visit your loved one—but plan that visit to make the most of your short time with them. See if the primary caregiver can use your assistance with routine tasks while there.
Remember to spend some time just visiting with your loved one. Rent a movie with them, take them to visit old friends, play a game or take them to church. Relaxing is good for everyone.
Get in touch and stay in touch. Get a phone for your loved one so they can keep in contact with you and others that care about them.
Learn the skills you may need to safely assist with care needs. Learn how to lift and transfer a person, how to give a bath to an adult, how to prevent or treat bed sores…. Information is available on line to help you learn these skills.
Gather a list of resources available to your loved one complete with contact information. This will come in handy as the aging process progresses and more care may be necessary. Keeping a copy of the local (to your loved one) phone book will help you keep up with the services and phone numbers.
The Schuylkill County Office of Senior Services can help seniors in our county locate services that may be needed for your loved one. Keep their phone number handy in case you need further assistance. 570-622-3103 (hours M-F 8:30am to 4:30pm, after hours calls are accepted for emergencies).
If Lori’s Angels can be of any assistance in directing you to available county resources, please do not hesitate to call us! 570-385-8450 or toll free 1-877-264-3505