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Long Distance Caregiving

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Helping From Far Away
By Kate Shuman
(Page 2 of 3)

Research travel alternatives - be prepared to ďcare commuteĒ at all times. Investigate travel options in advance. If youíll be utilizing your car most of the time for these visits, keep your car in good repair, and check on the route and weather before traveling. If you have to rent a car, look for the best rates. Remember, you donít have to pay for rental insurance if you already carry full coverage, or if your credit card company offers coverage. You may get a discount when buying bus or train tickets if you disclose that itís an emergency. Know to purchase airline tickets seven days in advance and stay over a Saturday night.

Discuss legal and financial issues - these topics may be difficult to talk about, but they help ensure that the older person maintains decision-making authority even when incapacitated. Preplanning will also lessen family disagreements and protect family resources. Such issues include information concerning a will, a power of attorney, a trust, if thereís going to be joint ownership, is a representative payee needed (a caregiver who receives government checks for an older person unable to manage money), and information concerning Medigap insurance. 

Take care of necessary paperwork - know where to find all legal, financial, and insurance documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce decrees, wills, and power of attorney before an emergency happens. Also, know where to find bank accounts, titles, sources of income and obligations, and auto, life, homeownerís, and medical insurance papers. Review these documents for accuracy and update them if necessary. Store documents in a secure place such as a safe-deposit box or a fireproof box. Itís always a good idea to make duplicate copies of everything.

Contact the aging network - contact the local department on aging in your relativeís community. This agency can help you identify helpful services, including obtaining a case worker. Use the National Eldercare Locator Service at (800) 677-1116 to find local aging agencies.

Create a plan of care - if at all possible, try to gather the family together for a meeting with the person who is in need of caregiving. Find out directly from that loved one what their immediate needs and concerns are, and work on getting them the assistance they need. Summarize your agreement in writing among all the family members who are involved. Keep in mind that family difficulties are typical. You may need to bring in a family therapist or social worker to help.

Once youíve had enough time to really assess what the true needs of a loved one are, youíll probably be able to create a really solid plan of action and care for them, even though there may be thousands of miles between you. Planning for the future, continually gathering information, and taking care of whatís needed right now are the three main areas of focus for a long-distance caregiver, and while it may be stressful, itís not impossible, especially if you remember that you donít have to take this walk alone.

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