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Author: Claire Wentz of Caring From a Far

Love knows no boundaries, but sometimes finding ways to ensure a senior loved one is doing well is challenging when you live far away. It can seem as if your hands are tied by the miles between you, but there are some effective methods for keeping tabs, in spite of distance. Here is how to keep those who are close to your heart safe and sound, regardless of location.

Technology for keeping in touch

Thanks to technology, staying connected is easier than ever. From nanny cams to social media, gadgetry and the internet are helping caregivers reach across the miles that separate them from their elderly family members. There are ample options, even if your loved one isn’t technologically inclined. Many older adults are intimidated by electronic devices, but there are cell phones and tablets that are senior friendly. Sometimes tracking devices are the most agreeable option; there are several which are unobtrusive and easy to use. Some can be attached to clothing or built into accessories, and others can alert you when things seem amiss. It’s a great way to ease a caregiver’s burden, helping you stay abreast of location and wellness, regardless of distance.

Staying on the go

As they grow older, many people tend to become isolated. They might be concerned about driving or falling when out and about, which can lead not only to reduced social interaction, but also neglect of some basics, like going to medical appointments and picking up groceries. One way to combat this is by exploring transportation services available in your loved one’s area. For example, many cities offer free passes or discounted rates for seniors who wish to use public transportation. Sometimes faith or community service organizations offer assistance, as well. The local office of Area Agency on Aging can tell you what is available in your senior’s location, and provide you with contact information.

Establish a network

Even with great communication and well-established means of transportation, there is nothing like enlisting local eyes and ears to help your loved one. With that in mind, CLL Society recommends connecting with your senior’s friends and neighbors. Find out who your senior interacts with routinely, and with whom they feel comfortable. Sometimes older adults require some assistance with their routines, such as running errands, housekeeping, or self-care activities. In this case, you might need to hire outside services. The plus is this care provider will not only offer a service, but also companionship and face-to-face connection. Before hiring one, discuss with your loved one about their preferences, such as what age group, gender, and cultural background might fit best. Check references of those you’re considering, interview candidates, and consider a meet-and-greet to ensure the match is a good one.

Prepare for personal visits

At some point, it will likely be necessary to pay a personal visit with your loved one, whether to spot check concerns, chat face-to-face with care providers, or just to enjoy some time together. In the event a trip is an emergency, it’s in your best interest to make some advance preparations. Ensure you have all your loved one’s medical data gathered, compile insurance information, check contact information for connections like area hospitals and caregivers, and become familiar with your employer’s FMLA policy. Many long-distance caregivers find it helpful to store pertinent data in their phones. Mashable describes several smartphone apps that are useful for keeping track of your loved one’s details, such as medication information and communicating with others who are in your support network. By putting the pieces all together, if something should happen, you can have what you need at your fingertips.

Caregiving from a distance is challenging, but far from impossible. There are ample resources available to help you maintain your loved one’s health, happiness, and independence. You might not be able to be there physically, but you can offer effective support across the miles.