October 4, 2021
Long-Distance Caregiving: Tips for When a Loved One Is in Assisted Living
For families scattered from coast to coast, caring for elderly parents is a unique challenge. When your parent enters an assisted living community and you’re living far away, you may wonder if you can really be the support your loved one needs. The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
These long-distance caregiving tips will help you prepare to become a better advocate and supporter for your parent whether you’re an hour away or across the country.
Get up to speed.
When you’re newly caring for aging parents, it may feel like you have more questions than answers. The best way to figure out exactly where and how you can help is to begin gathering information. Learn what you can about your parent’s medical conditions, treatment plans, medications, and care team. You’ll need to understand what care is provided in assisted living and how you can best support your parent as a long-distance caregiver.
Another long-distance caregiving tip is to get familiar with personal details, such as the daily routines your loved one likes to follow and preferences for products you may be able to replenish from afar, like favorite snacks, toiletries, and clothing brands.
Organize and identify gaps.
As part of your fact-finding mission, you’ll probably find it useful to start organizing paperwork and records. Gather personal, financial, health, and legal documents so you can get a better handle on your parent’s affairs and identify places where you might be able to lend a hand.
One practical and essential long-distance caregiving tip is to figure out where there might be limits on your ability to help. For example, if there isn’t a durable power of attorney in place to grant you legal permission, you may find it difficult, if not impossible, to handle anything related to finances or property from afar. Similarly, if you’ll be involved in your parent’s health care, you’ll need to secure the proper authorizations to discuss, and potentially make decisions about, their medical care.
Keep a care notebook.
Managing another person’s care can become complicated quickly. Once you’ve asked, “What does assisted living provide?” and you have a list of the services and resources available to residents, you’ll have a better picture of what’s involved in your parent’s care. In most cases, that’s a lot of information to keep straight. One solution is a “notebook” where you can keep records on your parent’s care plan, doctors’ visits, medication management, and notes from discussions with care providers. If possible, maintain this information in a secure, online format you can access from home, but also retrieve and update when you’re visiting your parent.
Learn who’s who and get connected.
Depending on your parent’s health, numerous providers may be involved in providing care and services to your loved one. Learning who the community staff members are and how they interact with your parent is also an important long-distance caregiving tip. Then, work out a schedule for staying in touch on an ongoing basis—not just when there’s a problem. Ideally, just one family member should be tasked with this role to avoid gaps and keep communication consistent.
Provide emotional support.
When you’re learning how to care for aging parents, you may quickly discover there are times when your most valuable role is doing nothing at all, except offering an ear to listen. The changes that come with aging and declining health can be scary and frustrating, and serving as a trusted confidant to ease those worries is a true act of love.
Create an emergency plan.
While you may focus first on making plans to help your loved one in the event of an emergency, another important long-distance caregiving tip is to keep your own arrangements in mind, too. Think about what you need to do at home (e.g., work, child care, pet sitter, mail service, etc.) in order to leave in a hurry.
Set priorities for your visits.
Although you can accomplish a lot from a distance, you’ll likely make periodic trips to visit your parent in person, and you can count on the time to fly fast. Plan your trips carefully and outline the priorities, such as meeting with a new doctor, taking care of business at your parent’s bank, or shopping for new shoes, so you can make the most of every minute.
Make time for memories.
While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the responsibilities that come with being a caregiver, try to remember the reason you became a caregiver in the first place: the connection with your family member. When you’re visiting, be sure to leave time that you can spend together making memories and enjoying each other’s company. Keep distractions from work or home to a minimum and focus on simple, relaxing pleasures like playing a board game or enjoying a leisurely meal together.
Use technology to keep in touch.
Even when you’re not physically present, your presence makes a difference—not only in communicating directly with your parent, but also in managing their care. At Springpoint at Manalapan, we use technology that makes it easy for family members to engage with their parents and our team.
Looking for a partner in your parent’s care?
Contact us to learn more about how we use technology to maintain ties among families with loved ones in assisted living and schedule some time to explore our assisted living community in Manalapan, New Jersey.