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Caregiving From Afar: Remote Doesn’t Have to Mean Removed

Jun 15, 2021 4 min read Ben Gran

Key takeaways

  • 34.2 million Americans are serving as family caregivers, with 15% engaged in long distance caregiving.
  • New technologies make it easier to monitor your loved one’s health and safety, even from afar.
  • Connect to community services and volunteer resources where your family member lives.


America is aging, and families are looking for innovative ways to take care of loved ones dealing with age-related health challenges.

Approximately 34.2 million people are serving as family caregivers providing unpaid care to aging adults (age 50 and over), a number that will only continue to rise. The number of older Americans who need nursing home care in the next 10 years will increase by 75%, reaching 2.3 million people by 2030 (up from 1.3 million in 2010).

Distance and time constraints are forcing families to reimagine what it means to be a caregiver. Long distance caregiving is growing more common, with 15% of all caregivers defined as long-distance or “remote caregivers.”

It’s natural to have feelings of worry and perhaps even guilt if you’re engaged in long distance caregiving. Fortunately, a variety of options are available today to help remote caregivers make the best of the situation and continue to be a loving presence in the lives of their family members, even if they are not able to be physically present.

Consider these tips, tools and strategies for long-distance caregiving to make your aging loved one’s life the best it can be.



Safety monitoring technology for long distance caregiving

Today’s technology is light years ahead of the classic medical alert devices, where people can push a button to call for help if they have a medical emergency or fall and cannot get up by themselves. These solutions are still available, but a new generation of tech tools are even more elaborate and customizable to your loved one’s needs.

Smart sensors can be installed in the home to make sure the stove gets turned off, and location-tracking GPS shoe inserts help monitor your loved one’s movements and alert the caregiver if they move beyond a designated area. These solutions can be especially helpful in caring for seniors who have mobility limitations or are living with dementia.

Other products can monitor daily activities, such as taking medication, and can send real-time alerts in case of a fall. Products such as voice assistant speakers, smart lighting with voice commands and remote door locks can also be useful for seniors.


Mobile apps

Smartphone technology has led to the creation of a wide range of mobile apps to help make life easier for long-distance caregivers and their loved ones. Whether you want to stay on top of medication refills, monitor heart rate and health indicators, or if you need an easy way to coordinate schedules with other family caregivers, there’s likely a mobile app that can help address your needs.

AARP offers a list of recommended apps for caregivers Opens in new window.


Telehealth and telemedicine

Telehealth and telemedicine are becoming more common for elderly patients, especially those who have dementia and who might have difficulty getting to medical appointments. Talk to your loved one’s medical team and see what options are available for conducting virtual appointments. The COVID-19 pandemic helped many seniors become comfortable with Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and other video chat technologies — the same tools that you use to keep in touch with your family can also be useful for remote therapy and medical treatment.


Local organizations and volunteers

Technology can be an excellent stand-in for remote caregivers, but sometimes you need the hands-on presence of a trusted relative, friend or volunteer from the community. You’re not the only one who can help your aging loved one stay in their homes while also receiving care. Especially in rural areas, which tend to have higher populations of elderly residents and lower access to hospitals and health care professionals, community organizations are stepping up to meet the demand for caregiving support services.

Look for volunteer organizations and agencies local to where your loved one lives. A variety of services are often available, for free or at low cost, to help with daily needs such as transportation to medical appointments, meal delivery and social visits. These supportive services can help aging loved ones stay connected to the community while giving remote caregivers peace of mind.

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging provides a list of these kinds of organizations. The Family Caregiver Alliance Opens in new window also has listings of state-by-state resources where you can get information specific to where your loved one resides.


Social connections

Perhaps your loved one is doing well physically and mentally, but they’re dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Social relationships help people stay healthy and active during all stages of life—but they become critical as we age.

Social interaction is integral to seniors’ health, and if you live far away, it’s even more important to ensure your aging relative is interacting socially and getting regular human contact. Caregivers can help by researching activities for seniors, locating resources in the community, and arranging social visits with friends or volunteers. Keeping up a daily phone or video chat can positively impact your loved one’s emotional, mental and physical health.

Long distance caregiving can be challenging, but remember that you have options and you’re not alone! Millions of others are dealing with the same challenges and sharing the same concerns—and many resources and services are available to help.


What you can do next

Check out resources for long distance caregiving from organizations that can provide you with ideas for technology, tools and in-person assistance to help your loved one.


Ben Gran is a freelance writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. He writes about personal finance, financial services, technology, and business.


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