The National Institute on Aging estimates around 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers. It’s no surprise, as people are living longer, and the number of seniors continues to grow.
If you’re facing the possibility of becoming one of those 7 million long-distance caregivers, you may wonder what you can do to keep distance from standing in the way of helping.
In short, there are lots of ways you play an active role, whether you’re an hour away or eight hours away. Here are a few:
- To start, if there’s a primary caregiver living with or near your loved one, offer her emotional support—in big doses.
- Manage services your loved one may need—arranging for in-home help or care, for instance, and following up to make sure there aren’t problems.
- Manage your loved one’s medical bills or records.
- Give the primary caregiver a break—plan times to go stay with your loved one so the primary caregiver can have a vacation.
- Have regular family meetings. Technology has a way of nearly eliminating the miles, thanks to conference calling and Internet video calling, such as Skype. Discuss concerns and goals; divide duties.
- Try to understand what your loved one’s going through. Learn as much as you can about the illness, condition or issues your loved one is dealing with so you can prevent possible problems, understand how to manage the condition and be better prepared for what may be ahead.
- Plan for emergencies. Unexpected trips to be with your loved one may come up that will require time and money. If necessary, talk to your employer about the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Most important, keep in touch, regularly and often. Whether it’s phone calls, videos, emails or good old-fashioned snail mail, you can make the miles disappear by letting your loved one know you’re thinking about her.
Find more tips and in-depth information about long-distance caregiving in the National Institute on Aging’s booklet, “So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving.” Visit the NIH website to download or print a copy.