With the impacts of COVID-19 over the past year, many people have had to provide care for their loved ones from a distance. Even without COVID-19, some caregivers find themselves providing care and services for their loved ones from different cities, states, and even countries! Sometimes, long-distance caregivers experience higher rates of guilt, having to rely on siblings, other family members, or professional caregivers who may be closer in proximity to their loved one to take on the “brunt” of caregiving. It’s important to know that there are ways to continue to be helpful and involved in their loved one’s care.
Keep in Communication
Communication is key to any good relationship, but it is crucial to stay involved and informed about things going on with your loved one. Plan a call or video chat with your loved one on a regular basis. Even if these “check-ins” don’t involve you directly asking questions about everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, making meals, etc., you can sometimes learn a lot about how someone is doing just by picking up on certain cues or something they said. Asking someone directly may not result in the true answer, as many people, especially older adults, often want to minimize their challenges.
If your loved one does have a primary caregiver close by, whether that be your sibling, parent, or other family member or friend, it is also crucial to keep in communication with them. Setting up a weekly or monthly call with your loved one’s primary caregiver(s) can help keep you up to date on any changes and keep you all informed as a team on caregiving roles and tasks. This will help you continue to feel involved and helpful and help other caregivers know your commitment and support to your loved one.
What can I do from afar?
In this technical world, we’ve learned that long-distance caregivers can do a lot from afar! Send your loved one care packages, hand-written letters, photos, or other things in the mail that can keep them in good spirits and feeling connected. Through phone calls, e-mails, and online access, you can research and hire home health agencies, pay bills, help manage finances, and more. If your loved one is having trouble getting out to the grocery store, there are many grocery delivery services you could set up to have their groceries delivered right to their house. Long-distance caregivers could also take turns ordering meal delivery through local restaurants. Reach out to your loved one’s local Aging and Disability Resource Center, or other aging service organization, to set up homebound meal delivery if your loved one qualifies. There’s lots of ways to get creative!
Try to Visit Often
Though a lot can be done from afar, in-person visits and care are still necessary. When you are in town, spend some quality time with your loved one and use that time to attend a doctor’s appointment with them, sort through mail, and get any other crucial updates and information that can only be gathered in person. If you are still working, it may be beneficial to check into your employer’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that could allow you to visit and provide care for your loved one more often.
National Institute on Aging – NIH: Long-Distance Caregiving