Caregiving Tips from Joan Lunden: 6 Ways to Stay Connected
Being a caregiver is a tough job. Struggling with geographical distances between loved ones and caregivers can make regular communication even more stressful. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, nearly 43.5 million Americans are caring for someone older than 50. Unfortunately for many—living in the same state isn’t feasible.
Like me, many of today’s caregivers are part of the Sandwich Generation—simultaneously raising children and caring for elderly parents. Juggling multiple responsibilities is always a challenge, but doing so while ensuring care for a loved one in a different state adds an extra layer of complexity. I live in Connecticut and my mom lives in Sacramento in an adult family home, so we’ve had to be proactive and creative with maintaining a communicative long-distance relationship. It’s important for a mother and daughter to stay connected; especially as health conditions change.
Over the years, I have found many ways to lessen our divide. From technology to creativity, here are 6 simple ways that have helped me stay in
touch with my mom:
- Video chat with Skype, FaceTime or other services. Today’s technology makes staying in touch so much easier
. Once mom knows
how to use the technology (or her caregivers can help her), daily or weekly chats can help you not only communicate better; they can keep you up-to-date and make you feel like you’re in the same room, despite being hundreds or thousands of miles away. As an added benefit, the ability to see your mom helps you recognize any physical changes that you may want to ask about. Also, using this technology is a fun way to empower mom with today’s fun gadgets!
- Cash-in frequent flyer miles. Those miles are there for a reason—to be used! Today, many banks and airlines offer credit card or flying options that let you accrue miles over time. If you’re a frequent flier or user of a credit card, the miles quickly add up and can make visits a more affordable option.
- Frequent Contact. As often as possible, I try to send my mom mail. Just little items that let her know I’m thinking about her. It can be a postcard from somewhere you are travelling, a seasonal card, or even a newspaper article or magazine with a page marked as something they might like. This is an easy way to keep your loved one engaged and remembering that someone is thinking of them.
- Organize and set up a support network. Recruit relatives, friends and neighbors who live close to your family member to routinely stop in and visit. Consider setting up a schedule so mom has a visitor at least once a week. One-on-one interaction is important to keep your loved one socialized and stimulated, not to mention, people in your network can let you know if they observe anything out of the ordinary.
- Make the most of your visits. Use your visits to not only enjoy a fun lunch with mom at her residence or one of her favorite restaurants, but also to visit with her doctors and other caregivers. Being aware of personality changes, health concerns and—even the fun, daily observed glimpses into her humor and behavior—can help you discern the situation.
- Keep a journal. Sometimes it’s hard to notice subtle changes in your loved ones’ behavior. Keeping a journal during phone conversations, Skype interactions and after visits will help you stay informed and organized on their progress, medications, injuries, personality changes and care.
I have to say that I’ve been lucky that my travel and lifestyle accommodate trips to the West Coast, allowing me to visit my mom on a fairly regular basis. However, I have had stretches of long periods of time where I haven’t been able to see my mom and it was incredibly hard. Whether this is the case for your family or not, hopefully these tips for caregiving across the miles will not only help you stay connected to your loved one but will also help ease some of your caregiver worries.
About Joan Lunden:
Joan Lunden is an American journalist, author, television host and A Place for Mom’s spokesperson. She was the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) from 1980 through 1997 and is the author of 8 books, including her latest book on caregiving, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers—which features words of wisdom from experienced caregivers and experts across the nation, as well as from Joan herself.
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