Caring for an aging loved one is never easy, but in many ways long-distance caregiving brings with it additional challenges. More than 43 million Americans serve as caregivers to a family member over the age of 50, and 15 percent of them live more than an hour away from the person they care for. On average, long-distance caregivers live between 300 and 450 miles from their loved one, according to Cathy Jo Cress, an instructor in geriatric home care management at San Francisco State University.
These caregivers often struggle to find peace of mind, because they know that it may take them several hours or even days to arrive if there is an emergency. Medical alert systems can help solve this issue, easing some of the stress on long-distance caregivers.
Medical Alert Systems and Long-Distance Caregiving
Medical alert systems have advanced considerably over the last few years. While they still make it easy for seniors to call for help in an emergency, they also offer a number of other features that can help bring that ever-elusive peace of mind to long-distance caregivers.
It can be difficult to know when you need to make the trip to help a loved one. Since last-minute trips can be costly and require you to take time away from work, rushing to visit every time there’s a slight concern may not be possible. When your loved one presses the button on his medical alert device, the trained operator will be able to determine the level of assistance he needs and dispatch that help. The operator can contact you to let you know if the situation is serious enough for you to make the trip.
The operator can also summon help from a trusted friend if an accident occurs but medical assistance is not necessary. This may be especially helpful for a caregiver who cannot be there. It’s not uncommon for seniors to fall and struggle to get up on their own, even if they are not injured. With a medical alert device, someone can be sent to help in your stead without your loved one needing to call for an ambulance.
Medical alert systems today can include GPS, Wi-Fi, and even cellular technology. This enables some of them, like Philips GoSafe, to be used both at home and on the go. Devices like this are perfect for active seniors. Some systems even include fall detection technology, automatically making a call anytime they detect that a senior has fallen.
Other Resources for Long-Distance Caregiving
There’s no doubt that being a long-distance caregiver can at times be frustrating, stressful, and time consuming. Luckily, a number of resources are available to help make the job easier on both you and your loved one.
One of the most difficult aspects of caregiving from another state is finding the help your senior needs in her local area. The Administration on Aging offers the Eldercare Locator, which connects seniors with services in their community. The website and hotline can be a great resource for caregivers. Other organizations, such as the AARP, also offer resources for long-distance caregiving.
Being a caregiver who lives miles away can be difficult practically, financially, and emotionally. Investing in a medical alert system can’t bring you closer to your family member, but it can help you find a peace of mind knowing that she will get the help she needs if an emergency does occur.