Long-Distance Caregiving: How to Help a Senior from Afar

November 28, 2017

Caregiving for a loved one from afar

This is a Guest Blog contributed by Marie Villeza, founder of ElderImpact.org, a site that provides seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.

A senior loved one of yours is battling her old age all by herself in a place far away from you. If she’s dealing with limited mobility, Alzheimer’s, a bad hip, or a disability, she needs real help. However, packing up your belongings and moving to her location may be impossible, and she doesn’t want to budge from her hometown to closer to you. Call it a complicated life, but something must be done about the situation, and you’re the one tasked with finding a solution.  

Here are a few pointers on how to fulfill your duty and role as caretaker of family member by helping your beloved senior from afar:

Dig into Your Senior’s Legal, Medical and Financial Matters

As your senior is aging, she may become too incapacitated at some point to handle her own legal and financial affairs. To keep an accident from catching you off guard, start educating yourself now on her medical history as well as on the nature and state of her financial assets. Do what you can to legally empower yourself to have access to the latter, in the event that her health suddenly plummets. Keep to the law, of course, but in the event your senior loved one has lagged behind on certain medical, legal and financial matters, you can step in and update her affairs. 

Armed with a power of attorney, talk to your senior loved one’s lawyer, stockbroker and/or financial planner. Not only should you get a clear picture of your loved one’s state of affairs, you can move forward with enacting a financial and legal plan to cover her continued retirement, and any necessary treatment. Your family will have to weigh in on certain issues, of course, but knowing exactly where things stand regarding your beloved senior’s bank accounts, insurance documents, titles, sources of income and assets will help you all tremendously in planning out her future. 

Put Together a Network of Local Support

If you don’t live near your beloved senior, being able to count on a local network of people who live near her is vital. Such helpers include family members, family friends, neighbors and religious representatives. The next time you visit your beloved senior, meet up with any person you’d think would be willing to keep an eye on her; and have them call you should anything seem amiss. If your loved one isn’t returning your calls, contacting your network of helpers will ease your mind. They may even be able to carry out some important tasks for you.

Hire Third-Party Services

Observe your beloved senior when you spend time with her, and consider hiring third-party services that may make her life easier. Key services such as telephone check-ins, transportation help, a fitness coach, a professional caregiver, periodic companions, etc., can all be used in combination to support her in her old age. Consider checking with the local department on aging for information on these helpful services.

Take it a step further and apply technology to your plan for caregiving from afar. If she has a dog, there are apps you can use to hire a dog walker. If she needs groceries or medications, there are apps that will fulfill orders and make deliveries. You can even order meal services, transportation, and housekeeping from the touch of a button on your smartphone. If you want to stay even more connected, give her a tablet, then you can use it to FaceTime or Skype with her. Face-to-face interactions will be beneficial for you both: You can see up close how she’s doing and she can feel just a little bit closer to you.

Make the Most Out of Your Time Together

When visiting, besides taking practical care of your senior, seek out personalized one-on-one time with her so that you can discuss emotional issues she may be struggling with. Particularly if she lives on her own, such tender moments may mean a lot to her.

If she is presently undergoing substance abuse therapy, talk to her therapists and consider participating in sessions where you can voice your feelings over wounds and traumas caused by her addictive behaviors in the past. This will pave the way for a genuine mending of the rifts between you two, and a deep healing. In addition, your senior’s therapist will be able to learn about your version of her addiction story, which would enable them to better understand the psychological roots of your senior loved one’s addiction. 

A Final Thought

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling guilty when you live so far away from your beloved senior. But it’s important to transfer the energy of your guilt into a more proactive strategy that sees her nurtured, well-supported, and financially stable. She can find love and support in the people you surround her with when you can’t be present round-the-clock for her. Knowing that she has the right level of care and that you are fulfilling your role will give you peace of mind.

The author Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. She developed ElderImpact.org to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.

STANDARD GUEST BLOG DISCLAIMER: Guests blogs are featured on the Providence Health site when they are determined to contain valuable insight for Providence Health's audience. Providence Health's publication of this article does not mean that all views reflected in the article are shared by Providence Health.