If you live far away and are busy juggling your own career and family, it can be difficult to care for an aging parent. Whether your parent needs help with laundry and errands a few times a week or requires daily care, you’ll want to find an experienced caregiver you can trust. Successfully managing a long-distance relationship with this person can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and endless worrying.
Hiring a Caregiver Presents Challenges
There are tremendous challenges in hiring a caregiver when you live far from your senior:
- Communication may be difficult because of time zone or schedule differences.
- Trust may become an issue if you don’t set clear boundaries and maintain open lines between you and your family caregiver.
- Power struggles may arise unless you clarify which decisions the caregiver can make and which ones she needs to bring to you.
- Satisfaction—yours, your parent’s, and the caregiver’s—is very important, but can be hard to gauge.
A Few Creative Solutions Go a Long Way
Once you’ve chosen a caregiver, try these strategies to help build a strong working relationship:
1. Get to know the caregiver personally.
Ask questions about the caregiver's life. Does she have kids? What are his favorite foods? What TV shows do you both enjoy?
2. Schedule regular update calls -- at least weekly.
Establish regular, open communication early in your relationship. By putting a daily, twice weekly, or weekly call on the calendar, both you and the caregiver are making a commitment to staying connected. Jot down questions or concerns as they come up during the week, and encourage the caregiver to do the same.
Depending on the scope of the caregiver’s responsibilities, questions might include everything from details about the daily routine to larger concerns regarding your parents’ ongoing health or community involvement. You can also use this time to be sure everyone agrees how the caregiver should handle sensitive issues like managing money and monitoring medications.
If possible, use Skype or FaceTime for these calls. Nothing can entirely replace face-to-face interaction, but video calls at least give you a glimpse into your parents’ home and his or her relationship with the caregiver.
3. Fly them both out for a visit.
If it’s hard for you to get away and your parent is able, consider flying both your parent and the caregiver out to visit you instead. You can make the trip fun, with special family activities. While the trip will be a vacation for the family, you should also set the expectation that the caregiver will continue his regular duties during the visit. That way you’ll get a peek into the routine and relationship he and your parent have established. Does he provide the quality of care your parent needs? Do the two of them enjoy each other’s company?
When you select a caregiver for your aging parent, you’re inviting a new person into your family and the family home. For this arrangement to work, it’s crucial that you build a strong relationship based on mutual respect and trust. By connecting on a personal level and then maintaining that connection through regular phone calls and occasional visits, you’ll greatly increase your chances for success.