Technology is defined as the usage of tools, techniques, or methods of organization to solve a problem. Today there are many tools, techniques, and methods of organization that can help address the unique challenges facing long-distance caregivers -- and over the next few weeks, I'll be featuring some of my favorites.
Of course, deciding which specific tools and techniques will work best for your family will depend on your loved one’s level of impairment, as well as his/her tech-savvyness and the savvyness of those in his/her circle of care (yourself, siblings, children, care providers etc.).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth at least a million. Although not intentionally created for caregivers, online video chatting services such as Skype and Google Chat are great tools for long-distance caregivers. Not only is video an emotionally rich form of communication, it also allows you to see how your loved one is doing (e.g. is her hair brushed, has she changed clothes). It also enables you to observe and monitor physical symptoms or changes in behavior that you may not notice over the phone. For more information, here's my previous about Skype and a quick introductory video from Google about Google Chat.
Care Team Coordination
A shared calendar is a great way to keep members of the care team on the same page about various appointments and other important dates and events. If you just need a simple calendar, Google provides a free web-based calendar,, which you can learn more about by watching this quick video.
Although not originally intended as a caregiving tool, Facebook’s social networking tools can be harnessed to help your loved one stay connected and/or help your care team stay in sync. For example, you could create a page for your loved one that the primary (and local) caregiver could help maintain. All the members of your family and care team could “friend” this page. The “wall” on this page would become a place where you could all exchange information, provide updates, share photos, etc. You could even imagine a tech-savvy local caregiver using the Facebook Places feature to “check in” at the various places she and your loved one go throughout the day (e.g. doctor appointments, grocery store, senior center, etc). For more information, here’s my previous post about Facebook and here's information about how to create private Facebook groups.
If you’re looking for a more extensive care coordination solution, the National Family Caregivers Association has partnered with Lotsa Helping Hands to provide a free web-based caregiving coordination service. The free service allows family, friends, neighbors, and care providers to create a community to assist with the caregiving daily tasks. Each community includes a group calendar; a platform for securely sharing vital medical, financial, and legal information with designated family members; and customizable sections for posting messages and photos. Click here to learn more about the service and to get started..
In my next post, I'll discuss technologies to help with appointment reminders, medication adherence, and remote monitoring. In the meantime, please share your favorite tech tips and tricks for long-distance caregiving in the comments section below.