If you live far away from a loved one who needs care, you can still get him the help he needs. The key is knowing where to turn for support. These tips can keep you connected and involved.
No. 1. Get Local Help
Even if your loved one doesn't need regular medical help, it's still a good idea to have someone stop by and check on him occasionally. If he doesn't have friends, family, or neighbors who are able to do this, look into online resources like AARP, Lotsa Helping Hands, or the National Association for Professional Geriatric Care Managers.
These sites can help you find health care workers and caregiving professionals by city and state.
"You can hire a full-time care manager, or you can just say, 'I need someone to go to my parents' house 3 days a week and make sure they get showers,'" says Sara L. Douglas, PhD, RN, assistant dean for research at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
No. 2. Get Feedback From Others
Your loved one's friends and neighbors, or hired help, can be your eyes and ears. They can give you reports on how he's doing if he's reluctant to tell you himself.
"Parents often want to shield their children from bad news, so they'll say they're fine when in fact that may not be the whole story," Douglas says.
Visitors to your loved one's home can let you know if he's got enough food in the fridge, gets his basic household chores done, and if his appearance and overall health are still the same.
No. 3. Decide What's Important
"Distance caregivers tend to worry about everything from A to Z," says John Schall, CEO of the nonprofit Caregiver Action Network. "They worry their loved ones aren't eating, aren't taking their meds, are tripping on rugs, are letting bills pile up -- but usually it's not A to Z. Maybe it's just A, C, and F."
To help you decide where to focus your time and energy, ask your loved one to do an "independent living assessment." He'll answer a series of questions developed by Boston University researchers. It can help you figure out which areas and skills your loved one needs help with.
"Otherwise, you'll worry too much and you might start to think that maybe a nursing home is your only option," Schall says. "A mistake we see people make far too often is thinking that it's got to be all or nothing."