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Managing Change from a Distance



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Caregiving is challenging, whether near or far away from a loved one. When living in close proximity, caregivers may feel overwhelmed by the routine itself, i.e. the number, frequency and difficulty of tasks required. However, performing the caregiver role from a distance can complicate things in unanticipated ways and deliver an additional set of challenges. A couple of hours in the car or on a plane might not seem like so much—until you find yourself doing it several times a month and begin to feel as though you’re meeting yourself on the road!

Assessment

Having a good understanding of the situation is probably the best place to start in terms of what your role is going to be as a long-distance caregiver. Maybe you’ve recently been with your loved one and noticed changes in communication, hygiene, nutrition, decision-making ability or mood, for example.  Perhaps there is evidence (e.g. bruising) that your loved one is falling.  Be sure to engage the following for their objective perspectives:

  • The physician, who will perform a physical/cognitive exam in order to 1) rule out any issues of particular concern; and 2) establish a benchmark for measuring changes/increasing needs over time.
  • A professional case manager, who can provide ongoing monitoring on your behalf and keep you informed.

Resources

These will be necessary for success in your caregiving role, as well. 

If not already in place, an elder law attorney should be sought to assist with your loved one’s concerns. But how does one find a knowledgeable specialist from a distance? 

  • The National Association of Elder Law Attorneys
  • The Indianapolis Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at (317) 269-2222
  • Senior Law Project at (317) 631-9424 (pro bono legal services for ages 60+ if certain criteria is met).

In addition, the local Area Agency on Aging is invaluable for providing information, resources, and services, and much can be accomplished online or over the phone. CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions (Indiana’s Area 8 Agency on Aging) is the hub for information concerning anything related to aging and disability. CICOA’s phone options counselors have an extensive database at their fingertips; not only can they perform an eligibility assessment on your family member for state-funded services—they are able to meet many other types of needs for information and direct queries to appropriate sources.  Contact CICOA at (317) 803-6131.

By the way, never underestimate the tremendous value of engaging your loved one’s friend, neighbor or clergy member as an emergency backup to keep you informed of changes. An informal support such as this can be a great source of consolation when you aren’t close enough to drive around the corner when emergencies arise.

Facing the Future

Every situation is unique and none of us knows what lies ahead, but two things are certain:  life is about change, and needs typically increase with time. These and every other challenge before you will present less stress if, in the meantime, you engage the best resources and learn all you can.