The Important Role of Communication in Long-Distance Caregiving
If you are a long-distance caregiver you know the pressures of trying to make sure your loved one is doing ok in their daily environment. Managing care, coordinating schedules and checking in on his or her daily status can be complicated and frustrating.
Long-distance caregiving support can come in the form of organization, team members, technology, and knowledge, but the important role of communication in long distance caregiving should not be overlooked.
Communication is the grease that keeps the long-distance caregiving wheels turning. It ensures that you have all the important information you need about your loved one and gives you the ability to anticipate when extra care and support might be needed.
Communication with clinicians. To gain the most information you will need to be the health care proxy for your loved one. That will allow physicians and other clinicians including physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, etc. to discuss your loved one’s condition with you in detail. Call your loved one’s primary care physician and speak to the office manager. Describe your situation and tell them that you are the health care proxy.
You will also need to send them a copy of the proxy. Then ask about the protocol for acquiring information; who you should speak to in the office, best time of day to call, and the appropriate phone number. They may give you a back office number for faster access to staff.
Communication with support services. If your loved one uses community services like transportation, Meals on Wheels, the senior center or Council on Aging; call and introduce yourself. Always speak to the highest manager you can find. Tell him or her that you are a long-distance caregiver. Give the manager the name of your loved one and ask if you can call with questions or concerns. Ask questions about their services. Knowing people in key positions will always benefit you should you need assistance with your loved one.
After the phone call send a thank you note with your contact information. It will make a positive impression on the manager and he or she will be more likely to remember who you are should you call them in the future.
Communication with the Council on Aging or the County Elder Care Services. The more resources you have at your fingertips the better off you will be as a long-distance caregiver. These resources exist to help people in your situation. Call and ask to speak to the elder care advocate who handles the location where your parent lives. Introduce yourself and describe your situation. Ask what services are available for your parents. Ask what he or she can do if you need help or have an urgent need regarding your loved one’s well-being.
Councils on Aging and Elder Services offices have a robust list of support services, including legal and advocacy support. All you need to do is ask questions to find the information.
Communicate with friends and family. Regardless of the relationship, you may have with individual family members it is important to communicate with them. If you are your loved one’s primary caregiver it is important that you communicate the details of your loved one’s care with others. You can do this through a monthly e-mail that lists care, appointments and health status throughout the month. You can do it via a document that is shared online.
The important thing with long-distance caregiving is keeping your family members up-to-date on your loved one’s health and care. It will reduce the number of questions you receive and in case of poor relationships, the transparency may alleviate problems and conflict.