If you live an hour or more away from a loved one, parent, or any person who needs your help around the home, you are a long-distance caregiver. How can you care for your loved one from afar? According to the National Institute of Aging, long-distance caregivers can have a variety of roles, such as helping with finances, arranging in-home care, locating care facilities, providing emotional support, or making sure the home is safe for aging in place.
Despite the distance, you can still be a caregiver to your loved one and provide the love and support they need. Here are some ways that you can offer assistance.
Stay in Touch
Communication is key. Even if you are not able to constantly communicate with the person for whom you are caring, consistent calls can be just as effective. It is important to check in to see how your loved one is doing, express appreciation, and learn of any resources they may need arranged, such as transportation, grocery shopping, or medical appointments. Organize daily or weekly phone or video calls to stay connected.
You can also help the loved one stay in contact with family and friends. If they do not already have easy phone access, set up a personal phone line in their home or living facility. Teaching them how to use video chat, text messaging, speed dial, etc. can help them feel more connected to others they cannot always see in person. Plus, it is always good for them to know how to call for help in the event of an emergency.
Build a Network
Long-distance caregivers tend to experience feelings of guilt and stress for not physically being present with a loved one. Due to the distance, there are some activities and forms of support you cannot offer from afar. But, remember that you are doing your best and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
In these situations, consider making caregiving a team effort by sharing responsibilities with family members or close friends. Define each person’s responsibility as a group, weighing in everyone’s strengths and locations to assign specific roles. If possible, you can plan a visitation or phone call schedule so your loved one has consistent interactions throughout the week.
Lean on Local Resources
If your loved one does not have family members or close friends nearby, you can also turn to local resources to support your “team.” These can include nursing aids, home health services, assisted living communities, senior center programs, or skilled nursing facilities. To start, the National Institute of Aging recommends looking into the following resources:
- Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116
- National Institute on Aging
- Family Care Navigator
- Your state government's website
Even if you are not able to be near your loved one, you can still play a part in arranging professional care and providing emotional support. Asking what you can do to help and keeping in contact lets them know they have your constant support.
Remember, you are doing the best you can! Keeping good communication, a healthy support system, and delegating responsibilities can allow you to be the best long-distance caregiver you can be.