Mar 3
Senior video conference with family

Tips for the Virtual Caregiver

Being a caregiver for an aging parent or senior loved one can be equal parts rewarding and challenging. Without a doubt, the demands of caring for the physical needs of someone who was once your caretaker can be an adjustment for the entire family. For adult children who care for a senior long distance, there are additional challenges. It is a balancing act that an ever increasing number of families are facing.

Research from the National Institutes on Aging shows seven million people in the United States are long distance caregivers for an aging family member. For these virtual caregivers, there is good news. Elder care technology is a growing industry and there are a variety of products that make it easier to stay connected and on top of a faraway loved ones’ needs.

Virtual Caregiving Technology for Long Distance Caregivers

 When you are an adult child trying to care for a senior afar, one thing you likely miss is the ability to have a “face-to-face” conversation with your loved one. Being able to see their face while you are talking can ease the stress that comes from wondering and worrying about how they are really doing.

Also having the ability to make sure they are taking the right dose of their medication at the right time is important. For many health conditions, it is what makes a difference between staying safe and healthy at home or ending up in the emergency room of a local hospital.

If you are caring for a senior long distance, here are a few solutions to consider:

  • Video Chat: Having a conversation that gives you the opportunity to assess your loved one’s condition long distance brings peace of mind. Is their face flushed? Do they look like they’ve gained or lost weight? Do they seem a little sad? These are all early warning signs that a senior needs help and ones a daily video chat can help you spot. Skype is free and easy for seniors to use to video chat on a tablet device or laptop. Grand Care is another option. It is a senior-friendly system that operates on a simple touch screen that doesn’t require a complicated log-in process.
  • Tele-Health Services: These in-home tele-monitoring services are typically offered through home health agencies under the supervision of a physician. They use wireless technology to monitor a patient’s condition throughout the day and night. This makes it easier for clinical staff from the agency to intervene in the earliest stages of a problem. It can help prevent older adults from ending up in the hospital.
  • Smart House Technology: An increasing number of tech companies are beginning to develop products often referred to as smart house systems. They work off of sensors placed throughout an older adult’s home. The sensors relay information to a base unit. It allows long-distance caregivers to keep tabs on a senior around the clock. Some systems can even alert you if a senior’s routine changes, such as not arising at their usual breakfast time or opening an exterior door in the middle of the night.

Have a Back-Up Plan When You Are a Long Distance Caregiver

 One final suggestion for long distance caregivers is to have a back-up plan that includes a local senior living community. Make plans to nearby retirement communities. In the event you or your aging family member experience an emergency, knowing you have a plan in place for their safety is crucial. Consider getting your senior loved one on a waitlist at your favorite retirement community in case a move needs to be made quickly.

To help families learn more about long distance caregiving, the National Institute on Aging created a booklet you can download. So Far Away asks and answers the 20 most common questions about long distance caregiving.