Simple Advice for Long-Distance Care Givers

Care Giver pic

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

America’s aging population is growing. The number of people in the United States ages 65 and older is projected to double from 46 million today to over 98 million by the year 2060. That is an increase from 15 percent of the total population to nearly one out of four Americans. Along with a growing aging population comes many challenges. For one, this generation of seniors features more divorced people. Between 1980 and 2015, the percentage of divorced senior women jumped from three percent to 13 percent, while the rate of divorced men went from four percent to 11 percent. Furthermore, an increase of obesity rates as well as Alzheimer’s disease means seniors face more chronic illnesses, thus increasing the need for assisted living services.

So, who cares for these seniors when they can no longer care for themselves? Informal caregivers -- “informal” just being another word for “unpaid” -- are the unsung heroes of the senior community. These caregivers are typically children, siblings, or other family members who take it upon themselves to make sure their loved one is safe and as healthy as possible. While many informal caregivers are lucky enough to live in the same area as the person they’re caring for, not everyone is granted that convenience. Many people have to look after seniors from afar as long-distance caregivers.

Help Out Around the House

Most adults prefer to stay in their own homes as they age. One of the biggest challenges to aging in place is keeping up with housework and maintenance. The good news is that online service providers have made it easy to find trustworthy, capable individuals to help keep your loved one’s home a healthy, safe place. Inside, start with a deep clean from a maid service, and schedule weekly or bi-weekly housekeeping, depending on your budget (in Yorktown, this will usually run you between $117 and $276). Outside, hire a lawn care provider to take care of general maintenance like mowing (at an average cost of $30 - $45). Look for a company that also offers seasonal services, like snow and ice removal, to ensure your loved one’s outdoor spaces are both safe and well-maintained.

Helping a Senior with Medicare

Medicare is one of the most important resources for seniors in this country. The federally funded insurance program provides a certain amount of relief for a senior’s ever-increasing costs of healthcare. One of the most important things a long-distance caregiver needs to do is stay informed regarding any changes to Medicare. Because seniors do not stay as connected to the fast-paced world as younger generations, it’s up to caregivers to inform their loved ones of date changes or anything else that might affect their healthcare coverage. Connect with Medicare resources that guide you through the red tape and provide you with what you need to know about the Medicare enrollment process and which plans are available in your loved one’s state. You’ll also want to look into any supplemental Medicare Advantage plans they may need to pay for things such as dental care or prescription drugs.

Schedule Visits

While they understand that work or family keeps you where you live, your presence means the world to your loved one. Scheduling visits with them gives them something to look forward to and plan for. Of course, travel gets expensive. Even if you live within driving distance from your senior family member, the cost of gas can really add up.

To save money on travel expenses, try being flexible with flight dates and times to get the best discounts. Avoid traveling on the weekend, and always fly mid-week. Join a frequent flier program or open an airline miles credit card. If you’re driving, save money on gas by having your tires properly inflated every time you plan to hit the road.  Change your filters and make sure your engine is running its best by taking it in for a tune up or oil change when needed. If your car is an automatic, use cruise control on the highway. Finally, if you have the financial freedom to do so, it may be worth it to trade in for a more fuel-efficient car.

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Long-distance caregiving isn’t easy, but it’s one of the kindest things a person can do. One essential responsibility of a long-distance caregiver is staying on top of Medicare coverage and informing their senior loved one of any changes that may affect their plan. While making plans to come to town and see them may not be cheap, you can save money by using smart travel hacks, like flying in the middle of the week or making sure your tires are inflated if you’re driving.

Last Published: May 16, 2019 2:40 PM
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