If you’re one of the millions of caregivers in the United States, you know that caregiving can be difficult. The last few years may have brought unexpected new challenges, such as the need for social distancing and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even now, it’s important to remember that you can continue to make a positive impact on your loved one’s life, even if you can’t be there face-to-face.
While you may be unable to physically be with your loved one, remind yourself that what you’re doing from a distance does matter. Careful, thoughtful planning and clear communication may help make remote caregiving easier on you and the person you’re caring for.
Here are some tips to help you navigate remote caregiving.
1. Stay connected. Communicate through video chats whenever possible to help them feel engaged. Encourage family and friends to call often or write letters and notes. You may also be able to set up a medical alert system that can help you track and monitor the person in your care. Look for a system that’s designed with caregivers in mind.
2. Get smarter with prescriptions. If the person in your care regularly takes medication, talk to his or her pharmacist to see if they offer a mail-order option. You may even be able to order early refills or get 30- or 90-day supplies.
3. Explore remote options for food. Visiting the grocery store is not always possible. The good news is, there are many options for food delivery. Whether it’s groceries, meal kits or Meals on Wheels, there are ways to help make sure your loved one is taken care of with nutritious meals.
4. Consider telehealth for medical needs. If a medical appointment is necessary, connecting virtually through a phone or video app may be a good option for non-emergent needs. Call your loved one’s doctor’s office to see what options are available. This guide can help you get started.
5. Have a plan of action. With so much uncertainty the past few years, it can be important to regain a sense of control and confidence. Some steps may include:
• Collect contact information. Build a list of contacts, including family members, care providers, pharmacies, care managers, senior service agencies and anyone else that you may need to get a hold of.
• Gather health documents. Because care recipients often have complicated medical situations, keeping all paperwork in one place can be invaluable. This could also include important financial and legal records. UnitedHealthcare also has a Care Organizer available, which can be a way to keep all your information together.
• Become an authorized representative. As an authorized representative, you’re able to help with payments, the choice of doctor and other care decisions. To add an authorized representative, your loved one can visit his or her Medicare or Medicaid health plan website or call the customer service number on the back of the member ID card.
Caring for loved ones at a distance may be unfamiliar territory, but knowing what tools and programs are available to help you can help ease uncertainty — both for you and those in your care.
For more resources and information that may help you with caregiving, visit uhc.com/caregiving.