What’s the best way to keep in touch with long distance elder. Use high touch—the old-fashioned communication they grew up – the Post Office and telephone. These heritage links are great way to support a far away elder. Non-tech, they cause no stress on their part. Even we boomers who walk haltingly through the tech world of 40 characters forget that connecting with a stamp or a call is so familiar to an older person. Plus you give that feeling of warmth they always got when they “ opened” “ or “ answered” something real (not virtual);
Pick up the phone- Make regularly scheduled phone calls to check in. The sound of your voice oozes companionship and support (so make it warm). You are just a phone call away.
Post regular snail mail or cards
Buy postcards of the area where you live and send them with a 40-word note
Send fun tourist souvenirs when you travel
Mail care packages —bake cookies with your children or grandchildren and send samples along with actual photos of everyone baking in the kitchen. Even if they crumble a bit -elders will smell the affection.
Send a “ holiday in a box. Easter and Passover are coming up. Send a basket of kids drawings candy, nuts- that reflect the holiday celebration plus a gift certificate for brunch or dinner with a friend– something to give joy in a simple package.
Skip that holiday in a box. Phone someone in that Circle of Care you made and ask if they can arrange to include your older relative or friend in the Easter brunch- egg hunt or Passover meal. That‘s why you created that Circle of Care .
You can do lots of things for your family member from your own home. Julie Menack in her chapter “Long Distance Care Providers” in my book Care Managers Working with the Aging Family has lists of these jobs in her chapter:
It is a really good idea to have a geriatric care manager in the town where your older relative lives. If there is a crisis, it is cheaper to have them solve it, for them to go to the hospital or emergency room, than for you to make last minute, expensive flights.
If you have not already done so, call a geriatric care manager . in your area before your visit. Make an appointment to go to their office and meet with them. Most GCMs will meet with you to discuss their services at no charge. You can shop around and meet with a few if you wish.
Meet with a geriatric care manager in the area where long distance aging family member lives, when you are in town.
Have a care manager do an initial assessment and visit your older relative periodically (once a week, month, once every two months). That way they are there for you when you need them and have all the information to solve the problem. Think of them the way you do one of those blow-up beds. You can pump them up when you need them in a crisis—perhaps avoid that crisis, and you yourself can sleep more soundly and with more peace of mind in your own bed. Some of the things a geriatric care manager can do for you are:
o Be available 24/7 taking those crisis calls
o Assess strengths and weaknesses of all of the potential caregivers and help siblings resolve conflicts about care decisions.”
o Help adult siblings understand one another’s strengths and limitations so that they can act together in the best interest of the parent.”
o Help put supports “in place to decrease the tension between hometown and long distance siblings…. email and regular phone calls (including conference calls), and develop care plans and schedules to improve communication.”
o Help the long-distance care provider “to deal with guilt and frustration that may result from their inability to provide more of the day-to-day care.”
o Help long distance care providers explore a diagnosis and manage problems of dementia
o Facilitate a family discussion of needs, resources, and division of labor among friends and family.
o Work on family cooperation to formulate realistic parent-care plans.
o Locate free or low cost aging resources, no-cost through the in your aging parents’ area quickly and without you having to do it.
Handle an emergency, hospitalization, crisis until you get there
o Be your family in the town where your long distance family member lives if you are a solo long distance caregiver