How do you care from afar when your loved one is elderly & chronically ill? (Part 1 of 5)

How do you care from afar when your loved one is elderly & chronically ill? (Part 1 of 5)

Caring from afar is also known as long-distance family caregiving. This series is inspired by a son who lives on the east coast but cares for an aging parent in our community. Can you picture this situation? Mother (Sally, made up name) is 85 years old. She has an ejection fraction (a measure of how well her heart works) of only 15%. She also has a neurogenic bladder (her bladder has forgotten how and when she should go to the bathroom) as well as type 2 diabetes, bilateral rotator cuff damage (she can’t raise her arms over her head to change her blouse) and she needs a cane to walk.

Recently, Sally lost her husband after sixty years of marriage. Her son called me because Sally went to the emergency room for the fifth time since Christmas. After this recent hospital and rehab stay, she is facing the big decision: should she go to an assisted living community, or should she remain at home and bring care to her? The big decision has two parts: One, how and where does Sally want to be cared for, and two, what would help her son worry less from afar, knowing that his mother is getting the best care possible?

We will discuss Sally’s care in 5 parts. Today we will define long-distance family caregiving and identify the associated challenges. A long-distance family caregiver is someone who assists in the identification, prevention, treatment, care and support for the physical, mental, and psychosocial needs and wellbeing of a child and/or dependent loved one. In Sally’s situation, her son is stressed and challenged because he does not have a plan to care for her, and he is too far to manage the care affordably and efficiently. Next time, I will tell you what Sally’s wishes are and how I go about helping her son care from afar while keeping Sally well, happy and out of the emergency room.

Until next time, be well and stay safe!

Katie Klem, Owner, Comfort Makers