Tips for managing an elder's care from a distance 

Caring for an aging parent or other relative can rank among the most stressful tasks a person can ever take on. But doing so from a distance makes it even more challenging.

Some tips for long-distance caregivers:

— Keep in regular contact with your loved one and, if possible, use video chats so you can make visual assessments. Seniors often defy stereotypes with their handle on technology and can master useful tools like Skype or other video chatting services, such as on the iPad.

— Find allies closer to the person you're caring for: other relatives, neighbors or friends. Ask them for help when you need it and rely on them for on-site advice on how your loved one is doing.

— Keep handy vital information such as prescriptions, a living will, phone lists of doctors and financial information.

— Seek out the help of a geriatric care manager, who can line up in-home services for your parent or other relative and assist in other caregiving tasks.

— Utilize new technology to help monitor your loved one. There are now consumer products that can dispense pills, track sleep and bathroom activity and monitor blood pressure, all from afar.

— Pay attention to subtle clues from your relative that might hint at underlying problems. Are they continuing to socialize? Paying their bills? Maintaining the house?

— Take care of yourself, too. Make sure you get breaks when you need them and find an outlet for emotional support. If you're not cared for, you won't be able to take good care of your loved one either.


Sources: National Institutes of Health, AARP, interviews with caregivers.

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