Not all caregivers are able to visit their loved one each day, or even each week. Many times, physical distance can feel daunting to those who are trying to help a parent as they get older, particularly as their needs increase or become more complicated. There are many resources available to make the task of caregiving for a loved one from afar more manageable and rewarding.
What is a long-distance caregiver?
A long-distance caregiver is defined as one who lives an hour or more away from the care recipient. According to a MetLife/National Alliance for Caregiving report, of the 34 million Americans who are caregivers for an older parent, 15 percent are long-distance caregivers.
The type of care provided by a long-distance caregiver can vary in nature, including:
- Arranging for in-home care
- Helping with finances
- Gathering information about care needs
- Providing respite care for a primary caregiver
- Coordinating senior living
- Creating a plan in case of emergency
Though many times long-distance caregivers may struggle to feel that what they are doing is enough, the emotional support they provide often is invaluable.
Tips for long-distance caregivers
Educate yourself: According to the National Institute on Aging’s report So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving, it is vital for caregivers to learn as much as possible about a loved one’s illness, medicines and available resources. This may help you understand what is currently happening, anticipate the course of an illness, prevent crises and assist with health care management. Sunrise Senior Living’s steps for managing long distance care include creating a comprehensive record of your parents’ important information and keeping it secure but close at hand. The NIA also recommends assigning one family member to talk to all health care providers and ensuring that person has written permission to receive all medical and financial information.
Plan productive visits: Before visiting your loved one, be sure to make an organized list of the tasks that must be accomplished during your trip, including checking with the primary caregiver to find out what he or she needs assistance with and assessing your parent’s daily needs to ensure they are being adequately met. Make sure you have time for all the most vital tasks (for example, do you need to schedule a trip to the doctor to discuss your parent’s current state of health?) and save the others for another visit.
Make time for visiting: Be sure to spend time with your loved one relaxing, enjoying each other’s company and making new memories.
Keep communication open: Keep in close contact with your loved one’s doctors, senior living staff, daily caregivers and others who are able to update you on the needs and progress from afar.
Help your loved one stay in touch: Program phones, add speed dial lines, set up email, or find other creative ways to help your loved one stay in contact with the people with whom he or she wants or needs to communicate.
Remember to care for yourself
Caregiving, no matter the distance involved, is an important but often exhausting and stressful role. Remember to seek support from others and ask for help if you need it. Accept credit for your efforts and don’t forget to take care of your own health. Find more caregiving support and resources on Sunrise Senior Living’s Caregiver Support page.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living