Your elderly mother still lives about two hours away in the home you grew up in. Ever since dad passed away two years ago, mom has been able to continue aging in place on her own. But lately her health has taken a turn for the worse. Mom’s always made it clear to you and your siblings that she wants to remain independent for as long as possible. You want to honor mom’s wishes, but how can you assist her when you live so far away? Long distance caregiving isn’t easy, but it will go more seamlessly when you take these steps.
Compile a Long Distance Caregiving Checklist
Just because you can’t physically be with mom doesn’t mean you can’t provide her with the daily or weekly assistance she needs. First, compile a list of caregiving tasks based on her physical limitations and needs. Don’t forget to include:
- Modifying her home to make it safer
- Taking care of her home and property
- Coordinating care with her doctors and other medical providers
- Food shopping and meals
- Assisting with medication management and compliance
- Devising an emergency plan
- Designating a durable power of attorney
- Money management and bill paying
Build a Caregiver Team
Using your caregiving checklist as a guide, now it’s time to build your caregiver team. If you have siblings or other family members that live closer to mom than you do, that’s a great place to start. If not, consider recruiting team members from these sources:
- Trusted friends
- Mom’s neighbors
- Clergy members and volunteers from her church
- Other volunteers in the community
- Senior transportation and meal services
- Healthcare professionals
- Licensed in-home caregivers
- Experienced Elder Law, Estate Planning Attorney
- Possibly a geriatric care manager
As the team’s leader, it’s important that you communicate with the other members on a regular basis via email, phone, FaceTime or Skype. Make-adjustments based on mom’s changing needs, along with team member availability and feedback. If a team member needs a break, take a few days off to fill in as their replacement.
Become Mom’s Medical Care Advocate
With your mom’s permission, fill out the appropriate forms for gaining access to her medical information, including records from doctors, medical facilities, health insurance companies and financial institutions. It’s also a good idea to request time off from work to accompany your mom on any important doctor’s appointments. As leader of the caregiving team, it also advisable for you to become her durable power of attorney (POA), which will allow you to make key medical and financial decisions on mom’s behalf in the event she is no longer able to do so.
Other Care Considerations
Ask for follow-up reports from care team members who are in the home about mom’s condition and care needs. Is she eating right? Can mom still drive? Is she taking her meds as prescribed? Use that “intel” to adjust the care plan so that mom’s quality of life remains good. Talk to your boss in advance about the possibility for taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if mom’s health grows worse. And, don’t forget to reach out to your mom via phone calls or video chats so that you can constantly remind her how much she’s loved.
Additional Professional Caregiving Resources
Here are some other long-distance caregiving resources that are available:
Thank you to Brian Perruccio, owner of Home Choice Home Care, Raleigh, NC
for writing the important article on Aging in Place with a Long Distance Caregiver.