If you live over an hour from an aging parent who needs care, you are a long-distance caregiver. According to the National Institute on Aging, there are as many as 7 million of you in the U.S. Caring for your aging parents is no small task, and when you add distance, it can add challenges. The good news is that technology can bridge the gap. There are countless free apps for everything from managing your parents’ medication intake to arranging transportation for their appointments. Here are some examples of great apps available, as well as tips for going the distance:
- Ramp up your communication with video. By using Skype or an app like Facetime for Mac users or Google Hangouts for Android users, you’ll get a better sense of their well-being than you can with mere phone calls. (Plus, you’ll make their day!)
- Use a calendar app such as Lotsa Helping Hands as your command central. You (and your care team) can keep track of appointments and use it to post requests for support, like if your mom needs meals after a surgery or a ride to her dentist’s office next month. This particular app will send reminders and help coordinate logistics automatically so nothing falls through the cracks. Family, friends, and service providers can all connect to the calendar and update as needed.
- Medication management apps like MyMeds send daily alerts for each medication that needs to be taken. It also saves and analyzes usage history and provides rewards for being on track. The app will even notify you and your loved one to refill any prescriptions.
- Keeping tabs on your loved ones’ health is so much easier with apps like HealthVault. Apps like this help you to securely organize health history as well as current treatment information. Everything is recorded and stored so you and/or medical professionals can access it. You can also ask your loved one’s doctor about other remote patient monitoring (RPM) options.
- If your loved one is still managing his/her own finances, there are some tools to help. When the time comes that your senior is having trouble paying bills and managing their paperwork, hiring a daily money manager might be the way to go.
Be sure to look into all the services available in your loved ones’ community. Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects you to services such as in-home services and legal assistance for older adults. AARP also provides a great resource for state, federal, and private benefits programs.
The needs of long-distance caregivers are as varied as the caregivers and their loved ones themselves. A common thread is to keep life as simple as possible for all. It can feel overwhelming to care for an elderly parent who still resides in a 3,000 sq. ft. home full of potential safety hazards. Part of caring for your loved one is talking with him about the benefits of downsizing. Moving to a much smaller dwelling or assisted living can definitely be bittersweet, but it can also enhance your loved one’s life in a way he never imagined. Emphasize the perks of less housework, yard work, and overall expenses. This is a time when you will physically want to be there for them. Provide them with some direction for dealing with their lifetime of belongings:
- Have them prepare three boxes or areas and label them “Keep,” “Toss,” and “Sell/Donate.” Encourage them to designate the treasures they would like to give to loved ones, and oversee the distribution of these items.
- Help them organize their old photo albums and memorabilia. Look into digitizing some of them.
- You may want to consider hiring a senior move manager, professionals who orchestrate the entire process from start to finish.
With technology and community services on your side, you can rest assured that you’re doing all you can for your loved one. With the help of these tips, you can provide a level of care that many don’t receive even when they’re in the same neighborhood. At the end of the day, it’s what makes them feel loved and cared for, and there is no app for that.