Tips For Long-Distance Caregivers
Do you provide care for an aging parent or relative who lives one or more hours away? Then you are one of the many long-distance caregivers in the US.
Whether you live across the state or the country, you likely wonder how you can provide your loved one with the best possible care. However, the first step is knowing which options you have, such as:
- Arranging help from outside services
- Organizing respite care for yourself
- Finding support in your respective communities
Taking advantage of these and other resources is key to more effective long-distance caregiving.
Getting Started As A Long-Distance Caregiver
Open long-distance communication, planning, and a clear idea of everyone’s role in your loved one’s care are essential. But these elements are even more crucial for long-distance caregivers.
You can effectively manage your parent’s care with other relatives and care team members via Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or FaceTime.
During these meetings, you should discuss critical points in your loved one’s care, such as:
- The current state of their health
- Their existing needs
- Possible changes to their care needs
- Extra assistance they mentioned they need
- Whether you as the primary caregiver need more help or support
- Community support or services being employed
Planning For Long-Distance Caregivers
Whether you have supported your loved one for years or have just become a long-distance caregiver, planning and organization are essential.
Make sure you, your loved one, and others involved in the care plan can easily access important documents, records, and information, such as:
- Power of attorney
- A medical power of attorney
- An advance directive for medical care
- Living will
- Contact details for your loved one’s medical providers
- List of prescriptions, including their purpose and dosage
- Secondary plan of care if you as the primary caregiver can no longer care for your loved one
- An updated daily care plan that includes schedules, routines, and tasks
How Long-Distance Caregivers Can Provide Support From Afar
When you live away from your parent, you may feel limited in your ability to provide care and support. However, there are many things you can do, such as:
- Becoming informed about your loved one’s health conditions
- Finding more about in-home care services, adult daycare, and respite care (contact your nearest Area Agency on Aging for nearby resources)
- Taking care of your loved one’s insurance needs
- Assisting with bill pay
- Planning for your loved one’s future care
- Arranging routine meetings with other relatives or care team providers to address changes in your loved one’s care
- Offering emotional support and listening to your loved one when they mention concerns or frustrations
- Regularly contacting your loved one, whether over the phone, through video calls, letters, or text
- Visting in-person when you come to town
Maximizing Visits With Your Loved One
Whether it’s once a month or once a week, regular visits are essential. Not only are they important for your relationship, but it gives you a chance to monitor their health and wellbeing, too.
When you visit your loved one, include these activities in your plans to make the most of your time:
- Spending one-on-one time together doing relaxing activities that you both enjoy, like walking, watching movies, catching up with local friends and family, etc.
- Assessing how they perform everyday activities such as personal care, eating, communicating, etc.
- Accompanying them to appointments (if appropriate or permitted), such as the doctor, legal counsel, financial planner, etc.
- Getting input from other caregivers, relatives, friends, and neighbors about your loved one’s health and wellbeing.
Also, if your loved one has another caregiver living nearby, make a point to offer your support so they can rest and recharge. Lastly, try to limit distractions as much as possible so you can give your parent and their primary caregiver your full attention.
When you live away from your loved one, it can be challenging to identify mistreatment. But you can look for evidence when you talk to your loved one and other caregivers during visits.
Elder abuse isn’t only physical — it also includes emotional, sexual, and financial mistreatment. According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 older Americans have experienced elder abuse.
Moreover, 60% of abusers are family caregivers. Abuse can be unintentional and arise from the stresses that come with the role or be maliciously intentional. Regardless, you as a long-distance caregiver must recognize signs of elder abuse such as:
- Unexplained abrasions, burns, cuts, bedsores, etc.
- Poor physical hygiene or grooming
- Appearing unfed or undernourished
- Unusual variations in spending habits, unpaid bills, or unaccounted expenses
If you notice any of these signs, talk to your loved one’s physician or a trusted home care provider as soon as possible. And if you believe there is an immediate threat, call adult protective services or law enforcement right away.
How Long-Distance Caregivers Can Cope With Guilt
As a long-distance caregiver, it’s normal to struggle with feelings of guilt. You may feel like you should do more to help, or that you could spend more time with your parent.
However, it’s important to remember that you can only do so much. You do your best given the circumstances, and being hard on yourself doesn’t do anything but make you feel worse.
Instead of dealing with these feelings alone, consider seeing a therapist or joining a caregiver support group. There, you can hear others’ stories and gain insights that can help you make the most of your situation.
MeetCaregivers Can Help
We’re here for caregivers near and far. If you and your loved one need extra assistance with long-distance caregiving, we can help.
Call 1-888-541-1136 or reach out online. We can discover respite care options or discuss hiring a full-time or part-time caregiver.
Check out the Blog to find more resources for family caregivers and seniors.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Caregiving: Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/caregiving/art-20047057.
- NIH National Institute On Aging. “8 Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 16 Mar. 2017, www.nia.nih.gov/health/8-tips-long-distance-caregiving.