You live many miles away from an increasingly frail or ill loved one. And you wonder: How can I help from such a distance?
Caregiving is a challenge under the best of circumstances. It's even more so when you're not close by. Still, there are ways to help watch out for your loved one's well-being from afar. Here are four key ones:
1. Reach out to people who live near your loved one. With your loved one's OK, put together a list of people who can be your eyes and ears in your absence. They can let you know how your loved one is managing. Consider neighbors, friends and doctors - anyone who has regular contact with your loved one.
2. Check out local services. A wide range of caregiving services may be available, from adult day care programs to in-home medical or personal help. To find them, try the eldercare locator, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Call 800-677-1116 or go online at www.eldercare.gov.
3. Pitch in. Even if a nearby sibling or other relative is caring for your loved one, you can still be a huge help. For example, you might manage your loved one's bills and paperwork. You can also track down medical information about your loved one's health problems or line up professional caregivers.
Look over your schedule too. See if you can pay a visit and temporarily take over the care of your loved one so your relative can recharge.
4. Make the most of time together. When you do visit, pay careful attention to how your loved one is managing. Is he or she keeping up with chores? Still socializing? Taking medicine as directed?
See if your loved one needs more help-and arrange for it right away if his or her safety is at risk. Be sure to quickly alert your loved one's doctor to any worrisome health changes, including any signs of depression. And when in doubt, speak up.
Sources: AARP; National Institute on Aging