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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Caregivers can make a big impact, even from afar

talking on the phone

More: What to look for when visiting a loved one

According to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 7 million adults are long-distance caregivers, caring for a parent or other family member living more than an hour away.

Each caregiving situation is different, but long-distance caregiving comes with unique challenges. Long-distance caregivers might feel helpless because they don’t live in the same city or state as their loved one, but there are many things they can do to help.

Recently, a man from Chicago was in town visiting his parents. His father has Alzheimer’s and his mother is his caregiver. The son wanted to know about available community resources for both of his parents – he was just as concerned for his mother’s needs as caregiver, as he was for his father’s.

Council on Aging’s Caregiver Education and Support program was able to help. During a free, in-home consultation, the son learned about programs and services that could help both of his parents – in-home and adult day care for his father, and a support group and respite care for his mother. The son was happy to be able talk with someone face-to-face about his parent’s needs, and he felt better knowing he had played a role in improving his parent’s quality of life.

This is just one example of the many ways long-distance caregivers can assist in their loved-one’s care. Caregivers can also help with finances, insurance paperwork, and coordinating services. Knowing where to turn for help or answers is often the challenge.

Caregivers can start with the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) near their care recipient’s home. AAAs can be found in every state – there are more than 600 nationwide. Council on Aging is the AAA for southwestern Ohio.

AAAs offer free or low-cost services and access to resources that can help older adults remain in their own homes and communities, and, most offer free resources and services for caregivers. Find a AAA by visiting www.eldercare.gov.

Whenever possible, it’s also a good idea for long-distance caregivers to visit their loved-one in person. Visits are good opportunities to make sure your loved-one’s needs are being met, and to assess the safety of their living situation. If you’re planning a visit, you might want to contact the AAA ahead of time and schedule an assessment at your loved-one’s home.

When you can’t be there, communicating with agencies or organizations that provide services for your loved-one can help you determine if additional services are needed. These service providers can share important information regarding changes with your loved-one’s health status. They can be your eyes and ears on the ground.

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that caregiving can be stressful – whether you live next door or a thousand miles away. Remember to enlist the help of other family members, friends and others who might be available to lend a hand or a watchful eye when you can’t be there.

For information about Council on Aging’s caregiver support programs, visit www.help4seniors.org or call (513) 721-1025.

Additional Resources:

National Institute on Aging: Long-distance Caregiving - Getting Started

National Institute on Aging: Long-distance Caregiving - A Family Affair

National Institute on Aging: So Far Away - 20 Questions and Answers about Long-distance Caregiving

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