Most private caregivers these days are from the baby boomer generation. Some approaching 70 and caring for parents nearing 90. I’ve seen my mom take care of my grandma for the past 13 years and counting, since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer.
Everyone’s situation is unique
..and depends on everything from health conditions, financial dynamics, family dynamics, and where you each live.
If your parents don’t live in an urban area, the moment driving becomes a struggle, their entire life situation changes. As their mobility, balance or eye sight slowly deteriorates every day chores slowly become increasingly difficult.
How do I know when to get involved?
There are a number of tell-tale signs to look out for. The house may not be as tidy as it used to be. Maybe your loved one used to be active with sports, walking, going on trips. Now getting around the house and up stairs suddenly appear to be a struggle.
Additional difficulties for expats
Living abroad as an expat offers many unique experiences, but being so far away from home comes with its own set of hurdles, especially when dealing with the declining health of loved ones.
As your parents age, health issues are common and living overseas can make it difficult to help as needed. Elderly parents are very reluctant to complain or to admit that they are finding things difficult. Even if you are in regular e-mail or Skype contact, this won’t give you the real and bigger picture.
How to care long-distance for your elderly loved ones?
I have had this conversation with many other expat friends. The same concerns are typically repeated and revolve around “my mom is ill, I have to go back more often to take care of her”, or “my father passed and I wasn’t there”.
That’s why I compiled the below list of tips to help you in getting started as a long distance carer for aging loved ones:
1. Get written permission to receive medical and financial information.
Additionally, try putting together a notebook (paper or online) that includes all the vital information about medical care, contact numbers, financial issues, and so on. Share it with relevant family, and keep it up-to-date.
2. Learn about your family member’s health
Learn as much as you can about your family member’s condition and any treatment. This can help you understand what is going on, anticipate the course of an illness, prevent crises, and assist in healthcare management.
It may also be useful to schedule conference calls with doctors, or nursing home staff so that several relatives can be in one conversation and get the same up-to-date information about health and progress.
3. Visit as often as you can
Plan your trips in advance so you manage being the most helpful during your visit. Not only might you notice something that needs to be done and can be taken care of from a distance.
Remember to actually spend time visiting with your family member. Try to make time to do things unrelated to being a caregiver, like reading, looking at old family photos, or going on a small trip. Finding time to do something simple and relaxing to build memories and maintain bonds.
4. Find ways to stay connected from far away
Teach your loved ones how to get online via Skype or WhatsApp so it’s easier for you to stay in direct contact.
Additionally it can be useful to find people who live near your loved one and can provide a realistic view of what is going on. This may be your other parent, a neighbour or a social worker. This will help you make decisions.
5. Talk to friends who are caregivers and share suggestions
Sharing can also be a good way for you to get the emotional support you need to be effective in the care you’re providing.
6. Don’t underestimate the value of a email list
It is a simple way to keep everyone updated on your loved ones progress and needs that may arise. Everyone feeling included and up to date also makes it easier to share responsibilities and tasks that arise.
7. Find local resources for your loved one
Many of us don’t automatically have a lot of caregiver skills. Information about training opportunities is available and may in some cases even be sponsored.
Look for local resources for family members to find local services. One such example is geriatric care managers who may be able to support you and your family in your role as caregivers.
Be kind to yourself
An 8th bonus tips, that might even be the most important one.
Whether you’re a local or distant family carer it is stressful. Take time to also look after yourself, enjoy your life and keep things in perspective.
Remind yourself that if moving home isn’t the right choice for you, doing so won’t feel right either. And if you’re not happy, then your loved ones will inevitably be unhappy to have been the source of such a move.
You’re not being selfish by living your life, so be mindful to not indulge in feelings of guilt.
Mon Tonton - for long-distance families
At Mon Tonton, we’re working on discovering how we can rely on technology to help them perform caregiving duties while well aware that there isn’t anything we can do to replace being there in person.
Are you interested in learning more? Join the waitlist here, and you’ll be the first to know when Mon Tonton beta is ready!