One of the toughest parts of being a family caregiver, especially a long-distance caregiver, is keeping all of the balls you are juggling aloft. The truth is, the more organized you are, the less stressed you will be. Checklists and calendars are a big help for keeping yourself organized. But family caregivers are often expected to keep others informed too and taking the time to make all of those phone calls can sometimes just be too much. There are many wonderful tools available that will help you facilitate communication between yourself and your care recipient, your caregiving resources, and friends and family.
Conference calls can be a terrific way to get far-flung family members involved with important decisions. For example, if you are the primary caregiver, but have several siblings who each live in a different city, you can use one of the many free conference call services to set up a number that each of you can dial into at the appointed time. In this way, all of those who should be part of the decision-making process can participate in real time. Similarly, if you are a long-distance caregiver, you might find it helpful to convene a monthly conference call with all of your caregiving resources so that everyone is aware of the others’ insights and concerns.
Care pages are a great way to keep your care recipient’s friends, family, and support network up to date on his or her condition and activities. Also free of charge, care pages are essentially personal websites or blogs. They allow you as the caregiver to post entries and photos, and allow visitors to post words of encouragement to you and your care recipient. You can set up the care page with various levels of security so you can control who sees what. This can be a really convenient way to communicate when you don’t have much time; you determine when you post, and when you read what others have posted. Many people who have used care pages find that they develop a wonderful network of others in similar situations, a virtual support group!
Social networking sites like Facebook can serve a similar function to care pages, in that you can post updates which interested parties can follow. You can create various levels of security on Facebook, so make sure that you don’t expose personal or medical information to the world. Similarly, there are many sites where you can set up a blog. You can then post your thoughts or updates and viewers can post comments in return. Blogs are generally very public, so you might find that a care page is a better tool for this purpose.
Finally, webcams allow you to get a visual on your care recipient if you are a long-distance caregiver. Unlike a phone call where you can only hear their voice, the webcam allows you to both see and hear the person on the other end. Many computers today have built-in webcams, and freestanding ones are available inexpensively. Once the webcam is set up, many care recipients are able to follow simple instructions to use them.
By putting updates in one place and allowing those who wish to do so to access them, you eliminate the need to make multiple phone calls. You are freed from worrying about whether it is too late at night to call your sister who lives three time zones away since she can read your update when it’s convenient for her. Likewise, if all of those involved with the hands on caregiving report their activities and observations in one place, the information is available to all of the caregivers without the need for long conversations. As you can see, using technology can be a big help in your caregiving journey.
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