The Long Distance Caregiving Dilemma

Being a family caregiver is never easy, but caring for a loved one from afar adds another level of complexity and worry to this already daunting role. If you are faced with the prospect of being a long distance caregiver, you may not know where to begin.  How do you find someone trustworthy to provide day-to-day care? How can you stay in the loop and provide as much support as possible? It is feasible to stay involved even if you don’t share the same zip code.

The first step to long distance caregiving is to determine what level of help your loved one needs. Do they just need someone to come by a few times a week to help with cooking and cleaning or do they require more involved care on a daily basis with things like dressing, bathing, transportation, etc? Once you’ve determined their needs, research trustworthy companies that provide in-home care in the area where your loved one is living. Finding a caregiver through a company like Home Care Plus versus hiring an independent caregiver offers many advantages. Most companies are licensed and insured, run background checks on the caregivers they hire, and handle all payroll and tax obligations. They might also offer specialized services such as having a registered nurse perform a needs assessment and oversee care coordination.

If possible, schedule meetings with potential caregivers and your loved ones’ doctor while you are in town for a visit. You will be more comfortable with the company you end up entrusting the care of your loved one to if you’ve met them in person. Attending doctors appointments in person lets you get to know their healthcare provider and gives you the opportunity to bring up any concerns or questions you may have. While talking with your loved one every day or every other day is a meaningful way to connect, it is also important to get a sense of how they are doing from others. Your loved one might not want to burden you with something that is bothering them, or if they suffer from a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia they might not be able to recall important aspects of their day or health, so it is a good idea to keep an open dialogue with their day-to-day caregiver. If you have siblings or other family members who live close by, enlist their help. Schedule weekly phone calls so you can be kept in the loop on how your loved one is doing.

Try not to be too hard on yourself if you can’t be there as much as you would like. Finding a dependable, compassionate, high quality caregiver and doctor to give your loved one the best care possible can bring you the peace of mind you need. Call or write as often as you can, and use technology to bring you closer. Teach your loved one about email, Facebook or Skype so that you can share pictures, messages and even talk “face-to-face” on a regular basis.