Proximity is just one of the considerations that families take into account when it comes to choosing an assisted living community for an elderly loved one. In fact, in our recent Assisted Living Family Attitudes and Preparedness Report, 77% of respondents said that proximity to their home is among their top three considerations. And subsequently, a corresponding number will choose a facility within 25 miles of their home.
However, situations do arise when you have to be far away from your elderly loved ones in their new home. So while you may not be there socially, you can still be a huge asset to the family goal of caring for its loved ones.
Below are four ways a long-distance family member can contribute to effective caregiving.
Identify and Organize Your Family Support Network
Whether you live in close proximity to or far away from your loved one, caring for a loved one in assisted living is not a one-person job. You need to meet with all family members and delegate responsibilities. These will include designating who will keep others informed, who will backstop other people who might be unavailable, and who will make decisions in cases of emergency.
Keep a list of contact information and make copies for everyone. Also include other important numbers like those in the community where your loved one is staying, your family physician’s clinic, and your family legal counsel’s office. Other significant organizations or groups located nearby who may be able to help you in special instances should also be listed.
Organize All Documents And Records
Make sure all important identity, financial, legal, and insurance documents are located, organized, and stored properly. Inform other family members of the location of such documents. Financial and insurance documents will be important to help finance the needs of your loved one for the duration of assisted living and beyond. Legal documents need to be filled out and signed while your loved one has the mental capacity to do so. These should primarily include durable powers of attorney (for financial and legal matters and for health care matters), and maybe even a living will. These will allow you to make decisions even if you are not physically present to consult with others.
Create An Action Plan For All Family Members
Creating a plan that all family members will follow is important not just to ensure that your loved one does not feel neglected. It also ensures that in case of emergencies, everyone knows what to do even if you aren’t around. A communication network should be set up to have a way to let other members know what is happening. A schedule for visits has to be implemented, to fill in those long gaps when you yourself cannot visit. Other tasks also need to be scheduled so that the other needs of your loved one in assisted living are met.
Take Care of YOURSELF
Caregivers need care, too. You are no good to your family or your loved one if you yourself are sick. Get adequate sleep. Take a vacation. Spend quality time with your other loved ones. Remember, you worked to put together your family network to help you. You need to trust them to help take care of your elderly loved one.
Additionally, many people endure natural stress and guilt from being far away from loved ones in need. There are many resources out there to help you work through those feelings. Online resources like Careflash, Tender Loving Eldercare, Minding Our Elders and Caregiverlist are great sites to explore.