Distance makes caregiving more challenging, from knowing what’s needed, to getting tasks accomplished. Here are some tips:
Stay in touch. This is a win–win. You stay current on issues, and your relative gets the emotional boost.
- Use the phone, email, and/or Web-based video calls. Connect at different times of day to see what’s up. Is mom sleeping a lot? What’s on the table at dinnertime?
- Ask about any injuries or falls. This information is important but may not be volunteered.
- If your relative lives alone, consider having them give you an “I’m up!” call or text by a preset hour.
Plan ahead. When visiting, use your time wisely. Do things with your family member that are just plain enjoyable. But also
- go to medical appointments. Get to know the providers. Ensure that releases are signed so you can talk with the doctors as needed.
- address housekeeping issues. Fix potential hazards, such as loose rugs, rickety stairs, and burned-out light bulbs. Check for signs that regular help is needed, such as garbage or laundry piling up.
- get into the kitchen. What is in the refrigerator? In the cupboards? Scorched pans may indicate your relative is forgetting to turn off the stove, a common sign of memory problems.
- check the desk. And ideally, scan the checkbook. Is the register in order? Any overdue notices?
- connect with the neighbors. And/or nearby close friends. Give them your contact information.
Stay organized. At your home, keep a binder up to date with documents essential to healthcare and money management.