If you’re trying to provide care and attention to a parent or loved one who lives in another state, you’re not alone. According to CNN and the Family Caregiver Alliance, “Between 5 million and 7 million Americans care for an older relative from afar—at least one hour away.”
Helping someone from a long distance can present many challenges and responsibilities, not to mention feelings of helplessness and worry. However, there are many resources available to you that will reassure you that your senior loved one is well looked after while still maintaining some of his or her independence.
If senior parents are handy with a smartphone, they can download apps that will help them with their everyday life. There are plenty of applications that allow users to set up reminders throughout the day alerting them of which medication they need to take, and some even help refill prescriptions. Of course, there are also apps that seniors may enjoy using to pass the time, such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Skype, for example, is a great solution if you live too far away to visit often. If your senior parent isn’t able to set it up, have a caretaker do it and schedule a video chat ahead of time. Chances are, your parent’s face will light up seeing you and his or her grandchildren.
A tablet is another option to take into consideration if your loved is an avid reader but can no longer hold heavy books, or finds the small print hard to read. An e-reader provides a well-lit reading experience, and often the text of the reading material can be enlarged.
U.S. News hails what is called a GPS SmartSole that fits inside the shoes of people with Alzheimer's so they can easily be found. What’s more, driving services like Lyft and Uber can be used to fetch rides if they can no longer drive. And if seniors can still drive, a GPS system could come in handy in preventing them from getting lost as well.
Some seniors have a furry friend they have trouble keeping up with now that they are in their older years. If so, consider looking into various pet services to help ease the workload so that seniors can continue to enjoy their animal. You can hire a dog walker, get a maid to help clean the litter box, have on-site grooming come to them, or schedule a car service to take them to and from the vet for appointments. You could also keep your senior loved one’s home stocked with supplies like treats, toys, and food to prevent too many trips to the store.
Before a crisis arises, get organized and compile any important documents and information that may come in handy later. This may include basic contact information as well as banking, health insurance, or legal documents. Make sure you have a doctor who oversees all of the medications he or she is on. Many times, older people tend to have lots of specialists, and prescriptions can get lost in the mix. Be in constant communication with this doctor so you are getting the most up-to-date, accurate information, even while far away. If your senior lives alone, have a neighbor check in every once in a while and contact you if there’s anything out of the ordinary.
Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important you find what works for you and your family, and understand that caring for your loved one will change over time as his or her needs evolve.