How to Provide Care From a Distance

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

According to a study conducted by the AARP, 15% of the nearly 34 million Americans who provide care to a loved one are caregiving from a distance of at least one hour or more. Caring for a loved one can be complicated as it is, but when you add distance into the mix, it can have an even greater effect on career, savings, and a caregiver’s emotional well-being. What works for one caregiver may not work for another, and with diseases like Parkinson’s, a caregiver’s role will change as the disease progresses, so the landscape is ever shifting. Keep reading for some starter tips on how to care for someone with a chronic condition from a distance.

Of course, the type of care provided depends on an individual’s health, so it pays to keep on top of any health changes. If you’re too far to visit more than a few times a year then try to call, email, or Skype as often as possible. With certain debilitating diseases, like Parkinson’s, writing an email or holding a telephone may be too difficult, so Skype is a great alternative as a way to check in. It serves two purposes: first it lets them know you’re there even if you’re physically far away, and second, it lets you see any health changes or declines as if you were actually there. If Skype is not an option, enlist the help of a nearby friend or neighbor and ask them if they notice any changes.

In the event there is a health change, the next step is contacting the physician for a formal diagnosis. Your role as caregiver will change as health declines after a diagnosis, such as Parkinsons. At some point your loved one may need professional assistance with most of their activities of daily living. In the event of a physical change, many times a person is still able to live at home, but their doctor might recommend more caregiving hours or further home-health services to assist with helping the patient get stronger. Home health can even include physical therapy. Likewise, there are also agencies that provide everything from companionship to help with groceries or light housecleaning.

If you do decide to hire professional care, keep your loved one’s health records on-hand and well organized. This should include doctors’ names/phone numbers, medications, and doctor’s visits (both past and future). Also, have advanced health directives ready in case of an emergency. If possible, try to schedule doctor’s appointments when you are in town in order to let the doctor know what you are seeing or hearing from caregivers. This can help the diagnostic process enormously since you will be advocating directly for your loved one’s health.

If there is a primary caregiver that lives with your family member, like a healthy spouse or an adult child, one of the most important things you can do is provide respite to them. Caregivers face burning out and sometimes have health problems of their own, so any respite you can provide will allow them to emotionally recharge. When you do get to visit your loved one and their primary caregiver, catch up on medical related issues, but also remember to talk about shared interests that aren’t related to disease or chronic conditions.

Written by Max Gottlieb for Senior Planning. Senior Planning is a one-stop shop for senior resources, health resources, and care resources.

 

Self Care Tips For New Caregivers: How To Focus On Your Own Needs

Photo via Pixabay by Sabinevanerp

Photo via Pixabay by Sabinevanerp

Working as a caregiver is one of the hardest jobs there is, and many people don’t get paid for it, as they’re simply taking care of a loved one who needs daily assistance. Not only is it physically taxing, it can also be mentally and emotionally exhausting, especially if the patient is someone you love. It’s never easy to watch a loved one suffer through pain or distress, but it can be difficult to focus on your own needs when your patient needs so much.

Making sure you are taking care of your mental health and physical well-being are essential to providing the best care.  It’s nearly impossible to be at your best for your patient when you’re tired or stressed. If you are in this state, you won’t be of much help to them no matter how hard you try. Think of ways you can reduce stress and anxiety at home and make self-care a priority; exercise daily, eat a well-balanced diet, get enough sleep, and look for healthy habits that will keep you feeling good.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to focus on yourself when you’re a caregiver.

Reduce stress

Just about everyone has some form of stress in their lives, but some handle it better than others. Learning how to reduce stress — and how to cope with it when it comes along — will help boost your mood and your ability to face the difficult challenges that each day brings. You can start by getting organized; this will ensure that you’re not rushing in the mornings, especially if you have children. Getting a handle on your finances will also help, as will creating a budget.

Get good sleep

Exhaustion can be quick to set in when you’re taking care of someone else, so it’s imperative to get good quality sleep. This means creating a relaxing place to rest with light-blocking curtains and making sure the temperature is just right. Investing in the right bedding and mattress is also essential, especially if your caregiving job is hard on your back. Making sure you get the right amount of sleep, as well as the right quality, will help you stay on top of all your responsibilities with renewed stamina.

Eat well

The things you eat and drink can have a profound effect on the way you feel. Many people tend to gravitate toward comfort foods when they’re stressed or tired, so it’s important to keep healthy items around the house, including easy-to-grab snacks. Granola bars, yogurt, low-fat string cheese, nuts, and fruit are some of the best options. You can also prepare well-balanced meals ahead of time and heat them up when you’re ready for them. This will help you avoid the fast-food trap on nights when you’re tired or busy.

Make time for yourself

If you work long days and find that you don’t have much time to do the things you enjoy, it’s important to rearrange some things so you have some downtime. Even if it’s just half an hour at the end of the day to read a book or watch your favorite television show, spending time doing something you really want to do will help you relax and boost your mental health at the same time. Consider getting up fifteen minutes earlier, or use your lunch break to take some time for meditation.

Caring for yourself when you’re in charge of taking care of someone else can be difficult to get used to, so it’s important to start small. Remember that your health and well-being affects your patient as well, because it’s hard to do a good job when you’re tired or stressed.

About the Author

June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.