Are you a Rhode Islander living in another state? Are your mom and dad still living at home? Maybe one of them isn’t doing so well anymore. Or maybe you’re starting to think about the reality that as people age, they might need help.
How do you take care of a loved one if you live far away? Approximately 44 million Americans are caregivers to older family members—and 15% of them live more than an hour away from the person who needs care. No matter the distance, caring for a loved one from far away presents challenges.
Where to start
Don’t wait until there’s a crisis to start thinking about caregiving. Next time you visit home, open a discussion with your loved one and, if possible, other family members to:
- Consider care options – This will depend on your loved one’s medical needs, level of independence, and financial resources.
- Organize important documents– Encourage them to have legal documents prepared such as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Durable Power of Attorney for Asset Management.
- Gather contact information for those nearby who may need to help, such as friends, neighbors, and care providers.
Communicate and listen
Every situation is different, but do your best to communicate as much as possible with your loved one and keep them involved in any care decisions (unless the ability to make decisions is impaired).
“The loss of independence can be very traumatic. It can affect a person’s mind and well-being because it’s not the life they’ve always known,” says Sharon Laushway, a health advocate at BCBSRI. Listen to your loved one and be respectful of their wishes. Be flexible and understand that their needs will likely change over time.
Learn what help is available
Find out about services and resources in the local community. In Rhode Island, The POINT can help you find services for the elderly, including:
- Adult day programs
- Home- and community-based services
- Case management
- Respite care
You can call The POINT by dialing 2-1-1.
Take care of yourself
The realization that you are now in the role of long-distance caregiver can create stress and uncertainty, especially as you are juggling the demands of your own life. It can be overwhelming—but it’s important to know that you are not alone. You can tap into information and support for caregivers available online and in your community.