In the first installment of this series we provided an overview of some key organizing and planning tips to help make long-distance caregiving easier. This week, we’re looking at how to build a strong support team and network to help you care for your loved one. Hopefully, you do not have to care for your loved one all on your own. But even if you have a small family or are the only person available on a regular basis, there are other people and resources you can integrate into your caregiving team.
If you have other family members who will be lending a hand, it’s a good idea to have a family meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s important to decide who will be the primary giver and what each person’s roles and responsibilities will be.
In addition to articulating who is in charge of what, you should also create contingency plans to address instances when one person is unable to fulfill his or her duties. It’s also a good idea to have a frank conversation about finances, including who will be in charge of managing the loved one’s finances and how any financial burden will be shared amongst the family members.
Finally, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a clear communication plan. Whether you decide to use email, text, Google Docs and Calendar, or some other method, things will go more smoothly if everyone knows how to keep in touch. There are also a variety of apps, such as CareZone and CaringBridge, that offer tools to help you manage doctor’s appointments and other details.
Friends & Neighbors
Think about who, outside of your family, may be able to visit your loved one either socially or to help with specific tasks. Does your loved one have local friends who may be willing to stop in from time to time, or be available to jump in when some specific support (like a ride to a doctor’s appointment) is needed? Make sure to give your loved one the opportunity to weigh in on who they prefer to see on a regular basis.
There may also be individuals within certain local religious, civic, and social organizations who can be called upon for certain types of support. Look into what types of groups are active where your loved one lives, and see if any may be of interest.
Since one of your primary roles as caregiver will likely be providing support in maintaining your loved one’s health and dealing with any medical issues, it makes a lot of sense to get to know everyone on your loved one’s healthcare team. This includes doctors, nurse practitioners, specialists, receptionists, and insurance personnel. Collect all the relevant contact info in one place, and make notes about who is responsible for which parts of your loved one’s care. You may also want to consider scheduling conference calls by way of either introduction or as an ongoing method of keeping in touch and abreast of developments in your loved one’s health.
Finally, there are many professional resources available to provide caregiver support. In addition to professional caregivers, there are people who can assist with meal prep and delivery, visiting nurses, and advocates. Which type of resources are available to you will depend on where your loved one lives. There are a number of online and national organizations that make a good starting point for any search, for instance Eldercare Locator, local agencies on aging, and senior care referral services like A Place for Mom.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true when it comes to caring for an elder family member. While it can sometimes feel like you’re on your own when it comes to looking after a loved one long distance, it’s important to remember that there are people and organizations you can call on to help.
Next week, we’ll wrap up the series with some tips on how to manage the day-to-day routines of long-distance caregiving.