6 Tips For Planning Ahead for Remote Caregiving of a Loved One

In our last aging-related piece we shared steps on how to successfully move an aging parent closer to you. But, we know many of our #FedLifeHacks followers are or may be caring for loved ones remotely. Here are some tips to help navigate care when your loved ones are not close by.

an older couple chats with family via laptop

1. Start the Conversation

If your aging loved one is not in a position to move closer to you or another family member, it’s important to have a conversation as early as possible with them about how they will access the care and assistance they may need. For example, how will they get to doctors appointments, go grocery shopping, etc.? What will they do if they feel suddenly ill or have another emergency? Check out these two tip sheets: The Guide to Having Tough Conversations With Your Loved Ones and Tips for Adults Talking to Their Parents About Senior Living Choices.

2. Put the Paperwork In Place To Help From Afar

Whether you are close by or helping remotely it’s a good idea to make sure key paperwork is in place so that you can assist with doctors, financial institutions, government agencies, etc. on behalf of your loved one if you need to. Check out this resource Documents Prepared Families Cannot Ignore.

3. Review Finances

Start by reviewing with your loved ones their current monthly budget. What is their income (social security, pension, retirement savings drawdown, etc.)? What are their expenses (housing, doctors and medication, transportation, food, etc.)? Then move on to how to address possible increases in expenses for additional care.  Check out this piece A Comprehensive Guide to Financial Assistance for Senior Care and Living Expensesfor a deep dive on many money matters for the aging.

Federal employees have another resource available to them, and their eligible family members, an optional benefit for Federal Long Term Care Insurance (LTCP) that was established by Congress in 2000 and is overseen by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. If approved, and depending on the policy selected, LTCP can offer coverage for in-home care, care by friends or family members, adult day care, home modifications, care coordination, caregiver training, assisted living and nursing care facilities. Like most insurance, you have to enroll before you need it.

Individuals below certain income and asset levels may be eligible for the Institutional Medicaid Program and should contact their State Medicaid office for more information.

4. Ensure Their Home Is Ready

If your loved one plans to stay in their home, either alone, or with periodic or regular in-home care, now is a good time to ensure the space is safe. Do the showers have grab bars? Can they safely navigate stairs or do they need a ramp, lift, or to move to a different level of the home? Would an electronic emergency alert or security system provide more peace of mind for you and them? Check out this Aging In Place Inspection Checklist for more ideas.

If they will be moving into another type of housing facility, check out this AARP Piece on Assessing Housing Options.

5. Beware of Strangers and Scams Targeting Seniors

Unfortunately identity theft and scams targeting seniors are quite prevalent. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Money Smart for Older Adults Resource Guide, which details several common scams and what to be on the lookout for. Encourage your loved one to pause when they get a call or solicitation before acting too quickly and check in with a friend or loved one about whether and how to respond to the solicitation.

6. Put your Own Oxygen Mask on Before Helping the Passenger Next To You

Caring for a loved one remotely can cause feelings of stress, guilt, and exhaustion. Remember while you are supporting your loved one to seek out support for yourself too. Most federal agencies offer some sort of Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for their employees. Find out what kind of resources for counseling, advice, or information, may be available to you by contracting your local human resource representative. Remember to review OPM policies for leave related to caring for an ill relative and applying for Family and Medical Leave Act approval.

Finally, these organizations provide different forms of caregiver support. Check out this AARP Blog for additional tips for long distance caregivers, and this piece on Coping with Remote Caregiver Guilt.

Would you like to receive more information like this when it comes out? Sign up for the FEEA newsletter using the box in the lower right hand corner of this page.

Would you like to reprint this piece in your agency human resource, federal employee association, or union local newsletter? You can do so at no cost by contacting admin@feea.org with your request.