If your loved one lives across town or in another country, you might still be able to help them even though you aren’t next door or in the same house together.
Being a long-distance family caregiver has unique challenges, but with planning and support it can be done.
Safety Tip #1: Preventing Falls
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, falls are the number one cause of injuries and death from injury among older Americans. In 2014, an estimated 29 million falls occurred, causing seven million injuries.
A fall can mark the end of independence for a senior so the goal should be to take steps to prevent falls in and around the home. Either during a visit or with the help of a professional caregiver, work with your loved to do the following:
- Remove clutter that can be tripped over or fall over on someone
- Remove throw rugs that slip or can be tripped on
- Tuck electric cords away so they can’t be stepped over
- Ensure that frequently used items—such as bed and bath linens or certain appliances—are stored at a height that they can reach easily (and don’t require a ladder to get to)
- Add nightlights in hallways and bathrooms
- Create a place to store outdoor tools so that they are not left in walkways
Safety Tip #2: Preventing Medication Mishaps
Side effects from some medications can increase the chances of a fall or other health complication in older adults. While a caregiver cannot predict or prevent all possible adverse interactions to medications or side effects, they provide support.
Ask if you can be part of an appointment with your loved one’s health care provider to learn about possible medication interactions, side effects and instructions.
Create a list of all medications and supplements that your loved one takes and make sure they take it with them when they have a check-up.
There is also medication management technology that can serve as a dispenser or a reminder to take medications in the correct dose at the right time. A long-distance caregiver can even get an alert that the action—such as taking medicine--has occurred, or when it’s been missed so that they can check in and find out if things are OK.
Safety Tip #3: Preventing Emergencies in the Home
While a home can be a place of safety and comfort, all homes require regular maintenance and updated safety features. It can be as simple as changing batteries in a carbon monoxide sensor or as complicated as installing grab bars.
Take the proper measures to safeguard your loved ones’ home from environmental disasters such as fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, extreme temperatures, smoke inhalation, and other dangers. A fire can start in the kitchen or due to faulty appliances so experts recommend an evacuation plan be put in place, just in case a quick escape is needed. To prevent the chances of a fire, either contact a local expert to come over and do a safety check of all appliances—blow dryer, microwave, smart devices—and their power source.
The National Safety Council’s website has many checklists to help guide you and a loved one through what should be checked and when. There are devices you can install (or have installed) that will alert you no matter where you are that maybe Mom’s furnace is on the blink in the midst of a subzero night. Or, conversely, that the A/C is out on a swelteringly hot day. If you are notified, previous preparations to have a trustworthy handyman’s contact information will be invaluable.
Safety Tip #4: Preventing a Missed Call for Help
Even with all of the preventions in place, there can still be an accident in the home. This is when getting help immediately is of the utmost importance. Even if your elderly Mom or Dad has switched from a landline to a smartphone, do they take it with them from room to room? A PERS (Personal Emergency Response System) is a waterproof pendant that can be worn on the wrist or around the neck so that help is just a click of a button away.
Not only are local authorities alerted when the button is activated, but also remote family members who can communicate with those on the ground.
Preventing accidents and injuries in the home can ideally help a loved one remain independent in their beloved home much longer, while also allowing them to remain engaged in the life they are familiar with and enjoy. And a caregiver doesn’t have to be under the same roof to help make this happen.