Caregivers help provide another person’s social or healthcare needs, which is why it’s so common to see informal caregivers — that is, unpaid friends and family members — offering their loved ones support. Statistics on caregiving from the CDC reports that 22.3% of adults provided care or assistance to a friend or family member in the past 30 days. Informal caregiving is the backbone of long-term care in the US, and takes on many forms, such as helping with finances, arranging for healthcare, or dealing with emergencies. However, the pandemic challenged many of the existing norms tied to caregiving.
Millions of caregivers were physically distanced from the person they’re caring for. Long-distance caregivers, defined as those who live an hour or more away from their loved one, were unable to see them on a day-to-day basis. As we mentioned in a previous post, the caregiving life requires rastrophiliopustrocity, which is a creative spark followed by action in order to bring to existence. Remote caregiving requires this creative spark, because it poses a completely new set of challenges to solve. Here are three things to consider for remote caregiving:
Prepare your loved one
You may feel like your smartphone or laptop is not enough to deliver care, but it’s critical to prepare your loved ones by opening up all potential lines of communication. The past two years living with the pandemic has shown that it does work. Around 23 million households used telehealth for therapy or counseling services, and it has been effective in delivering relief for many patients. This means that it is now really important to teach your loved one how to use these technologies.
Give them a tablet and spend time teaching them how to use key communication apps like FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype. This not only connects them to the rest of the family and the community at large, but it will also help them feel more empowered. Of course, you need to do this patiently and reinforce the basics of each app. One tip is to do three to four video calls with the family during the first week. This could also be a regular bonding time across generations.
Prepare your team
When you’re not nearby, you’ll need to delegate tasks and have other people be your eyes, ears, and hands. It would be great if you can set up your loved one with an in-home caregiver to assist with tasks, manage medications, and provide companionship. You would also need a team of medical professionals around as well. If your loved one doesn’t require intensive medical attention, you can opt to schedule remote health check-ups to minimize the risk of a coronavirus exposure. Do evaluate if their physicians or nurses have adjusted to a telehealth working style.
It would be helpful if these medical providers in a remote healthcare practice received additional training. While the standard of patient care in telehealth is the same as in-person care, it’s important for healthcare professionals to know how to use relevant technologies, platforms, and practices for a good web-side manner. Beyond professional services, you should also have a team of friends, family, and community groups in your caregiving network. Having confirmation of who you can count on can really bolster you and your loved one’s sense of security.
For decades, it’s been thought that being a family caregiver creates chronic stress that can lead to significant health risks. Fortunately, a recent study found that caregivers aren’t actually prone to additional inflammation. Still, you need to focus on your mental and emotional health. It’s not easy to get rid of the anxiety and guilt tied to long-distance caregiving. You may feel like you should be doing more, but compassion fatigue can be debilitating and leave you exhausted.
Plan a realistic schedule for regular check-ins, if that will help with your peace of mind. Don’t forget to make time for yourself either, because it’s hard to be a good caregiver when you’re running on empty. By showing yourself some compassion, you will be at your best for your loved ones.