If you are a family caregiver or relative, living far away from a loved one who needs care should not be a deterrent to pitching in to help. Many tasks can be undertaken from afar. Not only will your loved one benefit from your contribution to his or her care, but you will feel better about it, too!
Thank you to Dave Singleton from Caring.com for contributing this practical article.
4 Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving
By Dave Singleton, Caring.com author
I pulled up in front of Mom’s home last month and felt a sizable wave of guilt wash over me before I opened her door. A few years ago, I used to feel bad about leaving when I actually left. Now that she’s 85, I experience regret before, during, and after my visits. I live three hours away and it’s hard to stay longer than two days at a time due to work commitments. What if she needs more help than I can offer during my regular — but brief — trips?
I know I’m fortunate to be a car ride away. In addition to regular calls, at least I can show up in person every few weeks. Some who care for infirm parents live thousands of miles away. It makes me wonder: How do concerned kids care for parents who live far away? I posed that question to Ann Cason, geriatric care manager and author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders. She offers the following sage advice:
First, take your own pulse. “Caregivers who live far away often feel guilty, pressed, and suspicious around anything happening with the parent,” says Cason. She suggests that you look within and clear yourself of baggage. “If you find yourself feeling guilty, remember that it’s not your fault that you don’t live next door.” In fact, the guilt you experience may inhibit you from considering available care options that are quite good. You don’t have to go it alone.
Get help from someone local. “It’s good to have a paid friend to your parent,” says Cason. “You want someone who can spend time with them — clean house or run errands — and is willing to fill in for you when you’re not there. It’s important to find a person you like, who’ll update you regularly on what’s really going on with your parents.” Consider local friends or service workers who could easily transition into part-time companions. If you don’t know offhand of anyone who fits the bill, read reviews in the Caring.com In-Home Care Directory to find reputable service providers near your loved one.
Consider technology a real friend. “Utilize all channels available,” says Cason. “The telephone is great, but e-mail and Skype are convenient, accessible, and cheap, too.” Being able to see your parents through a video cam might ease your mind and make you feel like you’re closer. If your parents won’t Skype on their own, ask a tech-savvy friend near them to set up the computer and accept your video call, so that all they have to do is speak. Cason also recommends tools such as Lotsa Helping Hands, a free online care management service that helps you develop a community to support your parent.
Don’t forget to celebrate during your time together. When you’re a long-distance caregiver, sometimes you spend your visit checking off items on your to-do list. “There’s so much to take care of that you forget to have a good time,” says Cason. During your next trip, plan a purely social event with friends and family to celebrate, so that the focus isn’t solely on serious matters. “There’s no better antidote to stressful caregiving than connecting and reminding everyone that you’re a family and community.”
Dave Singleton is an award-winning writer and Caring.com author. If your loved one has memory impairment, you might also like 10 Ideas to Help Provide Alzheimer’s Care From Far Away.