mature woman with cell phone

7 Things to Know about Long-Distance Caregiving

Caregiving is difficult and stressful, and caregiving from a distance adds another level of stress. You can reduce that stress, though, if you plan ahead and keep your focus on your priorities. Here, the National Institute on Aging shares some steps you can take:

Know what you need to know. Experienced caregivers recommend that you learn as much as you can about your parent’s illness, medicines, and resources that might be available. Information can help you understand what is going on, anticipate the course of an illness, prevent crises, and assist in healthcare management. It can also make talking with the doctor easier. Make sure at least one family member has written permission to receive medical and financial information. To the extent possible, one family member should handle conversations with all healthcare providers. Try putting all the vital information in one place—perhaps in a notebook or in a shared, secure online document. This includes all the important information about medical care, social services, contact numbers, financial issues, and so on. Make copies for other caregivers, and keep the information up to date.

Gather a list of resources in the care recipient’s neighborhood. Searching the internet is a good way to start collecting resources. Check with a local library or senior center, the Area Agency on Aging, or the Eldercare Locator to find out about sources of help.

Plan your visits. When visiting your loved one, you may feel that there is just too much to do in the time that you have. You can get more done and feel less stressed by talking to the patient ahead of time and finding out what he or she would like to do. Also check with the primary caregiver, if appropriate, to learn what he or she needs, such as handling some caregiving responsibilities while you are in town. This may help you set clear-cut and realistic goals for the visit. For instance, does your mother need to get some new winter clothes or visit another family member? Could your father use help fixing things around the house? Would you like to talk to your mother’s physician? Decide on the priorities and leave other tasks for another visit.

Remember to actually spend time visiting with your family member. Try to make time to do things unrelated to being a caregiver. Maybe you could find a movie to watch together, or plan a visit with old friends or other family members. Perhaps your loved one would like to attend worship services. Offer to play a game of cards or a board game. Take a drive, or go to the library together. Finding a little bit of time to do something simple and relaxing can help everyone, and it builds more family memories. And keep in mind that your parent is the focus of your trip—try to let outside distractions wait until you are home again.