You’ve probably heard it said the world has gotten smaller. With affordable air travel and plenty of ways to communicate over long distances, we can go to or talk with people in just about every corner of the globe.
But when you’re trying to provide care for a senior loved one when you don’t live in the same place, that distance can seem as insurmountable as a mountain. The good news is that even if you’re miles away from your loved one, you still play an important role in seeing to their care, whether it’s providing emotional, practical or financial support.
Emotional support is actually the easiest type of support to provide from afar. With the multitude of options for communicating with loved ones who don’t live nearby, it’s easy to be in nearly constant contact with your loved one.
Studies show that feeling disconnected as we age can contribute to premature death, which makes staying connected with your loved one a priority.
While some older adults struggle with newer technologies like smartphones and tablets, many are happy to learn something new, especially if it helps them stay in contact with you. Consider getting a device for your loved one and setting times each week or even each day where you can video chat with one another. This provides a sense of connection for your loved one even when you can’t be with them.
But don’t limit yourself to conversation. There are all sorts of games you can play together. From something as simple as hangman (simply share your screen and use it like a piece of paper) to games designed to be played together on the computer like Jackbox.
Old school communication options are also a great way to provide emotional support to your loved one. Make it a point to write them an encouraging note once a week and drop it in the mail. Having something physical allows them to keep and reread your notes if they’re feeling down or you’re not available.
Be sure to send cards and presents on the big holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and birthdays, but make it a point to send a fun present or two at random times throughout the year. Everyone likes to get an unexpected package to brighten their day.
Even though you’re far from your loved one, there are still practical things you can do to provide support.
Be involved in their care
Know who is taking care of your loved one, whether it’s another relative or a paid caregiver, and be in regular contact with their caregiver so you can stay aware of what’s going on with their health. Check in regularly with the caregiver, especially if it’s a relative or friend, to make sure they aren’t getting burned out and need a break.
Have another relative or friend drop in unannounced periodically to make sure your loved one is getting the care they need. You can even use technology to monitor their care and keep them safe by using a baby monitor or home security cameras that allow you to see what takes place in your loved one’s home. A video doorbell can also give you and your loved one peace of mind.
Help with daily living
While you can’t be there to help your loved one up and down the stairs or to get to doctor’s appointments, you can still do plenty of things from afar:
· Make appointments
· Have groceries delivered
· Hire someone to deal with home maintenance
· Keep track of paperwork
· Pay bills
· Help them purchase gifts online for other loved ones
Pay attention when you talk with your loved one to make sure all their practical needs are being met. Most of the time a problem can be solved with a phone call or an email, which you can do from anywhere.
While your loved one may be doing just fine financially, that may not be the case for everyone. When finances are an issue, they can cause unnecessary stress for your senior loved one. Spend some time with your loved one talking about their finances so you can better understand their situation.
Some people may not want to share their financial situation, but just remind your loved one that you simply want to help and will protect their privacy.
Providing financial support for your loved one can be as simple as taking over the administration of their finances—making sure the bills get paid and your loved one has everything they need. This can be done without any legal documentation.
However, if you find there’s a need for someone to be in charge of your loved one’s finances beyond simply helping them pay the bills, you’ll need to legally be in charge of their financial affairs with a power of attorney document.
If your loved one needs monetary support and not just administrative help, you may need to consider adding to their monthly income if you or other family members can. Some assistance may be available from your state government, depending on your loved one’s particular financial situation. AARP provides a list of links for each state. Don’t forget benefits available for veterans and their spouses through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
No matter what type of support your senior loved one needs, living far away shouldn’t keep you from providing it. The world is a big place, especially when you’re far away from a loved one who needs care, but with a little creative thinking, you can make it smaller.