long-distance caregiving


In a previous Sixty and Me article, I covered the challenges of long-distance caregiving. With Covid-19, long-distance caregiving has become even more problematic.

For instance, occasional visits that you used to have may have disappeared altogether. In-person visits are essential, though. So, if you are not there even once in a while, you need to make sure you have people in place who become your eyes and ears.

Friends and neighbors can take up this role, but you need to stay in touch with them. We discuss long-distance caregiving in Sixty and Me.

Pick the Team Beforehand

It’s more important than ever to know with whom mom or dad interact with on a frequent basis. Maybe you picked up on some of this from previous visits.

Was it the neighbor next door? A member of the clergy? A student who has taken an interest? A dog walker, a delivery person, a home care aide, a pharmacist, or the postman(woman)? Let mom or dad tell you who they interact with and just as importantly, trust.

It could be that there is no support network. That is when you should turn to church and volunteer organizations. I am on Rotary, and we spent one Saturday sprucing up a senior’s yard. People are looking to do good and give back. Also contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

My colleague Barry Jacobs suggests you pick a “Starting Five,” like a basketball starting lineup.

Meet and Evaluate the Team

For my mom, evaluating the team roster was made easier by people whose actions said everything. The local pharmacy aide at the supermarket went out of her way to check in on mom and deliver prescriptions even when she did not have to do it.

The manager of the independent community mom lived in played nurse maid to mom, way out of the scope of her duties but yet she was more than happy to help. She saved my bacon on many occasions.

If you have the opportunity to visit mom or dad, meet the team personally, socially-distanced of course. If that is not possible, the magic of Zoom, Facetime, and other platforms allow you to meet people face-to-face.

Assign Roles and Set Expectations

Running errands or helping with the house or lawn is one thing. But what if mom calls at 1 a.m. or her health tracker has indicated she has fallen? Hopefully, the device connects her right to 911 but if not, who do you want to run over and what do you expect them to do?

Clearly, this shows you need a plan where team members are assigned appropriate roles. A student might help mom or dad with technology so that they in turn can stay in touch with you.

Introduce the Team

There are many platforms out there to help coordinate a long-distance team. I would suggest starting with a video call to introduce everyone. Make sure each team member has the others’ contact information. Use free tools like Lotsa Helping Hands to coordinate care.

Lots You Can Still Do

Remember, there are a lot of things you can do from a distance, like:

  • Manage mom and dad’s finances. Technology makes that easy.
  • Make doctor’s appointments.
  • Research medical issues and treatments.
  • Purchase supplies, like supplements and vitamins, and have them sent to the house.
  • You can even do grocery shopping long-distance and order meals.

Make sure to use technology to your advantage. There are so many solutions out there that help you stay in touch with loved ones and monitor their care.

Truth in transparency, I advise two companies just as examples. BrioCareuses Alexa to enhance caregiving. BuddyLife uses Fitbit technology to monitor falls of a loved one and also can set a GPS perimeter so you are alerted if they wander.

Be Grateful

You’re the coach of the team so make sure members are valued. Be grateful and express it in words and actions. A thank you note, a gift card, flowers – there are numerous ways to show you appreciate their efforts.