Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
One of my favorite things is to listen to my parents stories about the neighborhood where they grew up, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. When they were kids one of the great things was the entire family lived within a five block radius of one another. Having close proximity was great for socializing and spending time at the holidays, but it also helped when someone was ill and needed help. My paternal grandmother died when my dad was about 11 years old and her sisters, who lived close by, would come and help take care of her.
Times have changed and we’ve become a very mobile society. These changes have provided numerous opportunities, but has also changed how we interact as families, especially when it comes to caregiving. It’s hard to do the hands-on caregiving when you live 900 miles or more away from the person who is sick or injured.
There are two things to consider when you become a long-distance caregiver, the practical/legal stuff and the emotional/physical end of caregiving. I’m speaking from personal experience because my mother-in-law entered the hospital almost two weeks ago. She’s in California and we live in Denver. It’s clear we can’t come over and make her chicken soup and my partner is the primary on the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, so how do you serve as a long-distance caregiver?
Fortunately, technology is easing the cares for many long-distance caregivers because access to instant information is now accessible. Mobile phone technology can made it so teleconferences with providers can happen easily and by the bed of the patient. The new iPhone 4 will allow you to have a phone call with a visual if you’re calling another person with the same new iPhone 4.
There are options like hiring a care manager who can be there in person to serve as a patient advocate, but many don’t have the funds to pay for this service. First things first, make it clear to the doctor that you’re not a sidelines type of caregiver and if you have to demand regular calls to get updates on progress and/or problems.
Next, find out who the social worker/discharge planner is because their job from the moment you are admitted is to figure out what they are going to do with the patient at the end of their stay. My mother-in-law is going t be transferred to a skilled nursing facility because she’s not stable enough to be home. You need to get the information on where, when, how, and who the new contact person will be at the new facility.
Unfortunately with some providers the old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” is true. If you find the social worker/discharge planner uncooperative don’t be afraid to make some noise. Obviously try to interact in a civil manner because you do catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
My biggest piece of advice is to let the nurses, doctors, social workers all know that you’re an involved participant. They need to understand that you are going to hold them accountable for your loved one’s care and the interaction with you. Find out when the best time to reach them will be and set up regular appointments.
Don’t leave your loved one’s care to chance, be seen…anonymity is not an option when caring for someone from a distance. Utilize the technology available to make your presence known so even though you’re not in the room, everyone feels and senses your presence.