Caring for a loved one from a distance can be especially challenging. Because many seniors come to Florida to retire or families otherwise relocate to enjoy all that Florida has to offer, many elders live here without the nearby support of close relatives. Often, communities and neighbors are very supportive, but as we have written in the past, support from older friends may only go so far especially if neighbors are “snowbirds” who are not around during summer months.
As a long-distance caregiver, you can start by planning visits to your loved one and keeping an eye out for signs of concerns on visits and when you talk. To help, grab a copy of our “Warning Signs” checklist:
If you have identified some possible concerns, here are some tips and resources to help:
- Get organized. Check out our Essential Eldercare Checklist for things to do at various stages, important legal docs and information to have in place. Keep a list of important telephone numbers and websites in your loved one’s area as well as providers/key contacts (neighbors, doctors, attorney, local hospital).
- Talk to your loved one about getting a personal emergency response system. These range from a simple push button system that an elder can push if he/she falls to systems which monitor various points or help with medication management.
- Get introduced to providers/contacts if your loved one is open to it. Ask if your loved one would mind if you attend a doctor’s appointment and fill out paperwork to include you as a contact. Often neighbors and friends are under the mistaken impression that an elder’s family is not involved/doesn’t care, so it helps if you can meet them and provide emergency contact information. (If all of this feels a little invasive to your loved one, take it slow and explain your concerns and how you will respect their privacy but only wish to be prepared as a “just in case”.)
- Explore home care services. Would your loved one consider someone to help around the house with household duties or errands? Someone to come in and prepare meals once/week or drive to nighttime activities? Home companion services can be a good way to introduce some help and ensure someone is checking in regularly.
- Connect with a geriatric care manager. You may start now with a care consultation, or find out if your loved one might be willing to have a geriatric care manager attend doctors’ appointments or check in on a regular basis. A care manager’s expertise allows her to spot things that neighbors, friends and even family may not notice, especially if an elder is good at “putting on appearances”. The care manager can become a trusted resource you can rely on, your “eyes and ears”, while also being a great support for the senior client. Even if you don’t hire a care manager now, you have a resource you can turn to in the future.