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3 tips to help long-distance caregivers care for someone from afar
Posted: April 05, 2021
Last updated date: December 06, 2022
People who have both Medicaid and Medicare may have serious health challenges. Most are older adults or people with disabilities who need help from caregivers to stay independent and live safely in their own homes. Many tasks can only be done by a hands-on caregiver, but what if you live far away?
You can still play a valuable role as a long-distance caregiver. Here are 3 long-distance caregiving tips to help you care for someone from afar.
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Tip 1: Long-distance caregivers need to be organized
As a long-distance caregiver, one of the first and most important things to do is to get organized. Get as much information as you can about:
- Current medications
- Medical paperwork
- Health plan information
- Medicaid and Medicare status
- Names and contact information for all care providers
If you’re a caregiver for a senior, older adult or someone with special needs, you’ll also want to be able to talk to their care providers. Make sure you or another caregiver has permission to get medical updates from doctors. You may also need to get other permissions to be able to oversee your loved one’s Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security benefits.
It may be helpful to keep important household, medical and financial information together in one place. Be sure you can access it on the go so you can respond to things in real time. If you’re sharing caregiving duties with other people, you might want to create a secure online folder. That way, any of you can access the information when you need it. There are also a number of free apps to help organize caregiving using a smart phone.
Dual-eligible health plans can also help simplify life for caregivers too
Tip 2: It’s important for long-distance caregivers to stay in contact
If you’re the primary caregiver, talk to the person you’re caring for regularly. You may want to have a quick check-in phone call every morning. You’ll know that your friend or family member made it safely through the night and is ready to take on the day. Keep a log of your chats. For example, if your loved one said they had a headache yesterday, make a note so you remember to bring it up again. And be sure to ask specific questions to get helpful information, such as: How’s your energy today? What do you plan on making yourself for lunch? What do you plan on doing today?
Tip 3: Decide what’s the best way you can help as a long-distance caregiver
If you’re playing a supporting role in caregiving, ask the primary caregiver how you can help. For example, you might ask “Would it be helpful if I ordered some new pajamas for Mom online?” Or “I have a block of time carved out tomorrow to help figure out Uncle Dan’s insurance billing. Is that the best way for me to help, or is there something else you’d like me to work on?”
There are plenty of ways to connect and offer support and help from a distance.
Still wondering how you can make a difference as a long-distance caregiver?
There are many ways you can support a primary caregiver’s role. Here are some examples:
- Offer to be the “information coordinator” or point person for organizing paperwork and medical information
- Research in-home care or other ways to give the primary caregiver a break, such as organizing a meal delivery or a cleaning service
- Be the point person for finances and money management
- Help the primary caregiver look into nursing homes or assisted living facilities if needed
- Communicate with other family members or friends by sharing email updates or creating an online account on CaringBridge
Be sure to share your gratitude to other caregivers
Is someone else is taking on most of the caregiving work? If so, one of the best things you can do is to make sure that person feels valued. Burnout is common, even for the most committed caregivers. Drop personal notes of gratitude in the mail. Send a thoughtful gift. Or simply say how much you appreciate all they’re doing. Even a small gesture or comment can go a long way.
If your loved one is in an assisted living facility or long-term care, all of the above still holds true. Share your gratitude with the care team who’s looking after your friend and family member. Your note of thanks might be the only show of support that they get all week.
Caring for a family member or friend from afar may not be easy. But there are plenty of ways to connect and offer support and help from a distance. Stay organized and show your gratitude frequently for anyone else who’s helping out.
Dual-eligible health plans offer extra support
Sometimes the right health plan can make caregiving easier too. Dual-eligible health plans, are for people who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. These plans typically include many extra benefits* to help fully dual-eligible members cover more of their care and costs.
Dual-eligible health plans are designed to simplify life for fully dual-eligible members. Dual plans make it easier to coordinate care for people who need to manage multiple doctors, specialists and care services. By doing so, dual-eligible health plans can also help simplify life for caregivers too.
See UnitedHealthcare plans in your area
Dual-eligible or Medicaid plan benefits can change depending on where you live. Search using your ZIP code to find the right plan to meet your health care needs.
*Benefits and features vary by plan/area. Limitations and exclusions apply.