How to build a long distance care team

We live in a mobile society and that means that adult children will not always live near ageing parents. That makes it difficult to address their daily needs, especially if illness or chronic disease strikes. It is possible to assemble a long-distance care team that will provide for your loved one and give you peace of mind. Here are some tips on how to establish a circle of support for the elderly person you love.

1. Ask the elderly how you can be most helpful

  • What do they need daily?
  • What tasks are difficult for them?
  • Do they have regular weekly or monthly appointments – hair, GP, etc. that they need transportation to and from?

2. Talk to their GPs

  • If your loved one is willing to give you written permission, or you have lasting power of attorney, ask the GP to update you about their health. You can also discuss this with your loved one, but often, the elderly will hide information about their health condition for fear of losing their independence. You need to know exactly what the health impairments are in order to address them appropriately.
  • If you do not have permission or lasting power of attorney, the GP cannot by law release confidential medical information to you.

3. Talk to friends, family members, neighbours of your loved one

  • Can a schedule of support and help be created?
  • Can a neighbour take out the dustbin or walk your loved one’s dog?
  • Can a sibling who lives nearby take your loved one to the supermarket or arrange home delivery?
  • Can neighbours or family members check in on the elderly regularly?
  • Ensure everyone has your phone numbers, e-mail and other contact information.

4. Keep detailed records

  • Create a binder to keep notes, medical records, insurance information, calendars and even printed copies of emails. This will greatly help you as the care of your loved one becomes more complex.
  • Include contact information for GP surgery, district nurses, social worker, case manager, and other healthcare professionals like physiotherapists.
  • Make copies for all those supporting and caring for your loved one, and keep the records updated.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has guidance for supporting adult carers. It is a rich source of information that lists numerous books, fact sheets and other information on a wide range of issues involved in carer support.