Caregivers can make a big impact - even from afar

Thursday, October 31, 2013

November is National Family Caregivers Month

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 its own 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. 

A man from Chicago was in town visiting his parents.  His father had Alzheimer’s and his mother was 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 of Southwestern Ohio’s Caregiver 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.   

Whenever possible, long-distance caregivers should 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.    

When you can’t be there, communicating with any 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.   

Being informed about resources and community services, and knowing when to ask for help, are crucial components to a successful caregiving experience. Access to good information and resources can help long-distance caregivers be prepared for challenges that might arise, as well as help them coordinate caregiving responsibilities with other caregivers.  

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. You can find a AAA through 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.  Most AAAs offer free resources and services for caregivers.  Senior centers and local libraries are other sources of information for caregivers.

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. 

Click here for information about Council on Aging’s Caregiver Education and Support or call(513) 721-1025.

Long-Distance Caregiving: What to look for when visiting your loved-one 

With the holidays quickly approaching, many people will be traveling and spending time with families and older loved ones.  These visits are an excellent opportunity to look for signs that an older adult may need more help or that their health status may have changed.  Some of the things on this list might seem minor on their own, but when you notice that two, three or four of these issues have come up, that’s a good sign you might need to call in reinforcements. 

  • Loose or uneven steps
  • Tripping hazards such as throw rugs or electrical cords
  • Recent falls, injuries or car accidents
  • Messy house
  • Unpaid bills or financial problems
  • No food in the fridge or cupboards
  • Medication doses or doctor’s appointments missed
  • Problems with personal appearance or hygiene
  • Bathroom safety – grab bars in the bathtub and near the toilet

If you think you need help, contact the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) that serves your loved-one’s community.  The AAA can offer free advice and connect you to resources that could improve your loved-ones quality of life.   Find your AAA at  If the older adult lives in Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton or Warren counties in southwestern Ohio, contact Council on Aging at (513) 721-1025.