Friday, May 28, 2021

Long-Distance Caregiving - A Practical Guide for Family Members

A major concern for many families is how to care for a loved one who is growing older, but lives some distance away from them.  How can they make sure they are able to age-at-home, without the support of family members?  The good news is that modern technology has made it much easier to help the senior citizens in your family to safely remain in their own home as long as possible. With a few convenient community services, and the addition of some virtual assistants, many seniors can stay in their own home and continue to live a full, satisfying life.  

This week's guest post by Claire Wentz contains some great suggestions to help you with long-distance caregiving.  In addition, family members may want to contact resources in their loved one's community, such as their local senior center, their personal physician, and their church to see what other assistance may be available in their neighborhood.

You may also want to read this very helpful book: "When Your Aging Parent Needs Help: A Geriatrician's Step-by-Step Guide to Memory Loss, Resistance, Safety Worries, and More."  (Ad) It will help you understand what is going on with your loved one and how to find them the assistance that they need. 

Below is the guest post:

A Practical Guide to Long Distance Caregiving 

As people age, they tend to require more support in order to maintain a comfortable standard of day-to-day life. When your senior parent or grandparent lives in another state, you may worry that you are unable to provide the assistance they need. Luckily, modern telecommunications technology and cutting-edge caregiving services mean you can still take steps to make their life easier -- even without seeing them face-to-face. Find out what you can do to serve as a useful long-distance caregiver below.

Coordinate transportation for them

Sometimes seniors are no longer able to safely drive due to a decrease in cognitive or physical abilities. In other cases, seniors lose confidence in their skills on the road. Whatever the case may be, you can help a loved one who no longer drives by introducing them to alternative methods of transportation. For example, get them a smartphone and teach them how to use Lyft—which has partnered with Lively to establish a unique service specially for senior riders. They can then easily get to doctor’s appointments and social events without feeling “stuck” at home. You can even link the Lyft account to your credit card and spare them the expense. Some Medicare plans also include free transportation to medical appointments. Check with their Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plan to see if this is an option for your family member.

It may also be possible to find service providers who will go to their home, helping them minimize their need for transportation. Medications and food can be ordered online and delivered to their door. There are even hairdressers who will come to their home.

Hire someone else to handle yard work and cleaning

Sarcopenia is the term used to refer to the natural decline of muscle tone that comes with age. This results in general physical weakness which can make day-to-day tasks like yard work and cleaning difficult. Lugging a heavy lawnmower or toting around a big bucket of mop water may no longer be possible. Look for external service providers to keep your loved one’s home in shape, inside and outside. Molly Maids is a reputable cleaning service which operates nationwide, for example, and you can also search for lawn care professions in your loved one’s area online via their zip code. Help them create a network of people who will provide whatever services they need to maintain a safe, comfortable quality of life.

Look into food preparation services, if needed

Cooking is another task which can leave seniors feeling overwhelmed. This is problematic as it is important that seniors eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet to maintain their energy and health. Booking a service like Meals On Wheels for your loved one is a solution. This service not only addresses the issue of hunger, but also tackles isolation by ensuring seniors have contact with someone nearly every day. This can be particularly valuable for those who live alone, especially after the death of a spouse.

This is another area where you may want to talk to their Medicare provider. Some of them have contracts with food providers that will deliver reasonably priced special meals to seniors which will meet their unique medical needs, such as gluten free meals, meals for diabetics, vegetarian meals, etc.

Stay connected with senior-friendly mobile technology

Even if you cannot be there in person, you want your loved one to be able to reach you whenever they need to. Get them a senior-friendly mobile device so that they can use video chat apps such as FaceTime or Zoom and make calls or send text messages as needed. As of 2019, four in ten seniors had a smartphone. Manufacturers are recognizing the demand for phones designed for older people, creating products with unique features, such as extra-large buttons. You can also make sure your loved one always has a way to reach help in the event that they are not near their phone. A medical alert system allows your loved one to call for help in the event of a fall or anything else which requires medical attention.

There are a variety of choices in medical alert devices, (Ad) including those with and without monthly service fees. You may wish to check out a variety of devices to decide which one will work best for you and your loved one.

Follow these steps and you can rest easy knowing your parent or grandparent is getting the care they need. Meanwhile, they can make the most of their golden years. You will both benefit from peace of mind as a result.


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