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If you support an elderly loved one as a caregiver, you aren't alone. There are an estimated 43.5 million non-professional caregivers in the United States. Many of these provide long-distance support. If you fall into this category, you already know the unique challenges caregivers face when they aren't located in the same city or state as their elderly parent or grandparent.
Senior Healthy Lifestyles provides resources that can help you safeguard your loved one's health and happiness. From healthy eating guidelines to stress-buster tips, you can find resources for seniors and caregivers alike. There are many other tools available to help you support your parent's or grandparent's wellbeing even if you can't meet face to face. The below guide covers some highlights.
Your loved one likely spends the majority of their time at home, especially in light of the dangers posed by COVID-19. Ensure that they are comfortable by sending them a care package of items designed to create a soothing space. Older individuals have diminished circulation and get cold easily, so a throw blanket is a great option. You can also add aromatherapy candles with soothing scents like lavender.
Everyday tasks like housekeeping can get more challenging as people age. This is due to sarcopenia, the natural decline of muscle mass that occurs as people get older. Help out your loved one by getting a professional to do a thorough cleaning once a month. They can declutter, clean, and open windows to let in fresh air and light. This will help create a calming space and can support your loved one's mental health. According to Psychology Today, a messy environment is actually shown to cause anxiety.
Older people who spend a lot of time at home are at risk of isolation and related feelings of anxiety and depression. Consider getting your loved one a new smartphone, laptop, or tablet so they can stay connected. They can use digital tools like Zoom to video chat with kids, grandkids, and friends. They can also use their new tech to stay on top of doctor's appointments and other important dates.
Consider setting up a shared Google calendar. As their caregiver, you can stay abreast of their appointments, remind them if needed, and follow up on results afterward. They can also use the calendar to set medication reminders.
Once your loved one is set up with their tech tools, they may need a tutorial. Seniors Guide offers an easy step-by-step guide for older individuals on how to use Zoom. After they've mastered the tech basics, you can brainstorm innovative ways to connect across distances. You might make your own book club, for example, or eat dinner "together" via video. You can also watch movies together with technology like Netflix Party.
As a long-distance caregiver, you can offer a great deal of emotional and mental support thanks to modern technology. It's tough to take care of physical tasks, however. If needed, arrange extra help for your loved one. You might schedule their grocery deliveries from afar using tools like Instacart, for example, or schedule a ride service to take them to their medical appointments if they no longer drive — the AARP has a list of such transport services.
Caring for an elderly loved one who lives far away is challenging but it's gotten much easier thanks to modern technology. The above guide provides inspiration on how you can ensure your parent or grandparent is thriving physically and mentally.