Being a caregiver can be stressful — and it may be even more so if you’re caregiving from a distance. Whether it’s an aging parent who lives alone in a not-so-nearby town, or an ailing relative or friend in another province, you can still be an effective caregiver. While open communication, planning and support are key, the sooner you start putting strategies in place, the better.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Get organized. Keep detailed notes about your loved one’s condition information, care and services. Include contact information for healthcare providers (including doctor, specialist, therapist, social worker, pharmacist), hospitals and clinics involved in their care, and other caregivers. Also compile a list of personal information you may need, including:
- Date of birth
- Social Insurance Number
- Provincial health card number
- Other health insurance information (company, policy number)
- List of medications
- Hold a meeting — in person, by phone or online. If you’re the primary caregiver, gather other caregivers (such as family, friends and neighbours) and, if possible, the person who needs care. Use the meeting to decide on a plan of action — divide duties, agree on responsibilities, and how you can support each other. Plan to hold regular meetings to keep everybody updated.
- Meet with your loved one and their healthcare provider. A face-to-face meeting with their doctor or primary healthcare provider helps establish a good working relationship with them.
- Get a privacy release with their healthcare provider. With your loved one’s consent, arrange to have direct communication about their care with members of their healthcare team.
- Establish a check-in routine. Set up a regular time for phone calls with the person you are caring for — whether daily, every other day or weekly. If distance allows, you can even plan regular visits. If it doesn’t, send updates, photos and videos via email or by mail.
- Make friends and neighbours your eyes and ears. Share contact information with your loved one’s friends and neighbours. Call them if you need someone to pop in. And ask if they can give you an update whenever they do.
- Explore personal emergency alert devices. With these devices, a simple push of a button on a wearable device is enough to trigger an emergency response. If the person you’re caring for lives alone or is alone for parts of the day, they can call for help if they fall or suddenly feel ill.
- Be prepared for emergency travel. If you can, put aside some money to pay for last-minute travel and accommodations to be with your loved one. And let your workplace know about your circumstances so a contingency plan can be put in place. Be sure to find out about company policy around unscheduled vacation time, extended or unpaid leave, and if any services or benefits are extended to caregivers.
- Arrange for support services. Meals, transportation to and from appointments, housekeeping, and personal care services can all be arranged from a distance. Ask your loved one’s healthcare provider for direction on finding local services.
Lastly, ease up on your guilt. When you feel like you’re not doing enough, think about all that you are doing! Read Self-care stress relief for caregivers for tips on dealing with the emotions of being a caregiver.
You can also visit Find Support and search “caregiver” for organizations and resources in your area.