Long-Distance Caregiving: What You Need to Know

Anyone, anywhere, can be a long-distance caregiver, no matter your gender, income, age, social status, or employment. If you are living an hour or more away from a person who needs your help, you’re probably a long-distance caregiver.

Long-distance caregivers take on different roles. You may:

Help with finances, money management, or bill paying

Arrange for in-home care—hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help get needed durable medical equipment

Locate care in an assisted living facility or nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility)

Provide emotional support and occasional respite care for a primary caregiver, the person who takes on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities

Serve as an information coordinator—research health problems or medicines, help navigate through a maze of new needs, and clarify insurance benefits and claims

Keep family and friends updated and informed

Create a plan and get paperwork in order in case of an emergency

Over time, as your family member’s needs change, so will your role as long-distance caregiver.

If you’re faced with the prospect of long-distance caregiving, the task may seem complex and intimidating. Here are some suggestions that can help you get a handle on it:

Ask the primary caregiver, if there is one, and the care recipient how you can be most helpful

Talk to friends who are caregivers to see if they have suggestions about ways to help

Find out more about local resources that might be useful

Develop a good understanding of the person’s health issues and other needs

Visit as often as you can; not only might you notice something that needs to be done and can be taken care of from a distance, but you can also relieve a primary caregiver for a short time

Many of us don’t automatically have a lot of caregiver skills. Information about training opportunities is available. Some local chapters of the American Red Cross might offer courses, as do some nonprofit organizations focused on caregiving. Medicare and Medicaid will sometimes pay for this training. See Where can I find local resources for my family member? to find local services for older adults and their families.

Learn about your family member’s condition and any treatment to help you understand what is going on, anticipate the course of an illness, prevent crises, and assist in healthcare management.

Learn as much as you can about your family member’s condition and any treatment. This 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.