Helping relatives stay safe and well when you don’t live nearby is a challenge but can be overcome with planning and professional services.
Gone are the days of the nuclear family and the communities where you lived near your aunts, uncles, and third cousins. The reality of life in the 21st century, even in small communities, is that people are mobile.
We move to where we can earn a living or live a lifestyle that suits our needs. This often means moving away from loved ones. This distance, once seen as freeing and independent, can begin to feel like an obstacle and a source of guilt if you find that you need to provide care for someone living in another place.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defines a long-distance caregiver as anyone who lives an hour or more away from someone they help. This care could include help with finances, arranging for errands and meals, coordinating doctors, and arranging for in-home care.
NIA reports that, “there may be as many as 7 million people” providing long-distance caregiving in the United States, and the numbers are growing every year.
Are you doing enough?
One of the most nagging questions people face when caring for a relative far away is: Am I doing enough to provide care from a distance? The responsibilities of caring for an aging parent duties often can be divided among family members but this too can cause friction as the level of care needed increases or changes.
The first step in providing long-distance care is communication with your loved one and with all of the caregivers involved. NIA advises working as a family team – and a family may also include friends.
Look at the immediate tasks and long-term care needs and decide who is best suited to each job. The NIA checklist below can help people analyze their abilities.
What Can You Do?
When thinking about your strengths, consider what you are particularly good at and how those skills might help in the current situation:
- Are you good at finding information, keeping people up-to-date on changing conditions, and offering cheer, whether on the phone or with a computer?
- Are you good at supervising and leading others?
- Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and interpreting what they say to others?
- Is your strongest suit doing the numbers—paying bills, keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing insurance policies, and reimbursement reports?
- Are you the one in the family who can fix anything, while no one else knows the difference between pliers and a wrench?
When reflecting on your limits, consider:
- How often, both mentally and financially, can you afford to travel?
- Are you emotionally prepared to take on what may feel like a reversal of roles between you and your parent—taking care of your parent instead of your parent taking care of you? Can you continue to respect your parent’s independence?
- Can you be both calm and assertive when communicating from a distance?
- How will your decision to take on caregiving responsibilities affect your work and home life?
The Benefits of Home-Care Aides
Caring for an parent or disabled relative – even if you live next door – requires resources. If you do not have the time, money for constant travel, or medical training to provide the type of care your relative needs, in-home care can offer a variety of solutions. Home-care aides, also called in-home care, is recommended by the National Institute on Aging as a solution to assist long-distance caregivers.
- Service hours can be scheduled for as little as a few hours per week up to round-the-clock care
- Your relative can remain independent longer and in their own home
- Skilled nursing staff can assist with medical needs and medication management
- In-home care can be coordinated via long distance and provide caregivers with regular reports and status changes
- Cost is more affordable than moving a loved one into a retirement or nursing home
- Caregivers provide an important social link for patients and help keep them active and engaged in meaningful activities
- In-home care eases the worry that your loved one is alone
For more information about how to provide long-distance care the National Institute on Aging has a free e-book, So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving
People Come First
Comfort Home Care aides are dementia and Alzheimer’s care certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. Our caregivers are trained to understand the phases of dementia, and changes in behavior. We use this information to provide the best care possible. We strive to understand a client’s health history and personal preferences, their current health and care needs, and what their future needs might be. We believe this is the best way to deliver meaningful care.