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Caring from Afar: Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on January 8th, 2015

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Caring from Afar: Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving

assisted living  |  tips for caregivers  |  aging parents  |  60-day stay trial  |  Aging & Caregiving

UMH-Ladies_distance_Just because you are far away from your loved one doesn’t mean you can’t play a valuable role in his/her life.

While long-distance caregivers face unique challenges, there are many things you can do to close the geographical -- and emotional - gaps. Here are eight ways to contribute as a long-distance caregiver:

1. Check In Often

One of the biggest issues facing seniors today is feelings of loneliness and isolation. Make an effort to stay in touch through a variety of different measures -- cards, phone calls and even video chats offer a critical sense of connection. Set aside a specific day or time to regularly touch base.

2. Enlist Others

While you may not be able to check in face-to-face, feel free to call on members of your loved one's caregiving community. It’s easier than ever to stay in touch thanks to modern technology. Rely on your parent's local support network to help keep you informed. Additionally, many local organizations also offer outreach to seniors. Check with your local agency on aging, a local senior center, or your loved one’s assisted living community to find out more about these resources.

3. Be "Present"

Just because you're far away doesn’t mean you can’t “be present” in your loved one's life. Make yourself and other family members visible by displaying meaningful mementos -- from family pictures to kids’ artwork -- throughout your loved one's living space.

4. Management Matters

While other family members may be more immediately available to your loved one, they may also need help with managing care. Whether you keep track of doctor appointments or take over paying the bills, these essential tasks can be handled from afar while freeing up local relatives for other duties.

5. Communication Counts

Though everyone contributes differently, you are still equal partners in caring and decision-making. Some families find it helpful to schedule a regular care management call with key points of contact to keep the lines of communication open. If you’re struggling with the division of labor or costs, an independent advocate or geriatric care manager can help mediate.

6. Be a Resource

While other family members may be physically present, they may also be overwhelmed by details. Stay informed about your loved one’s condition and treatment and make a point to keep up with your loved one’s caregivers and healthcare providers. Offer to do research or make phone calls and explore the options that are available for your loved one. Ask your parent to sign a release allowing doctors to discuss medical issues with you.

7. Be Ready

Emergencies, special occasions and other factors require face-to-face contact. Designate an emergency fund in case you need to make an unexpected visit. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows unpaid leave if you need to take time off from work.

8. Make Visits Count

When you do spend time with your loved one, watch for changes and signs of new problems --particularly if your loved one has a progressive disease. While these can be challenging to pick up on daily, time and distance may offer a valuable perspective.

Key Takeaways

  • There are many ways to contribute as a caregiver and geographic proximity is just one factor.
  • Communication is the key: stay in touch with your loved one, as well as other family members, caregivers and healthcare practitioners.
  • While others may handle the day-to-day duties of caregiving, long distance caregivers can make valuable management, oversight and organizational contributions.
  • Rather than feeling guilty about the ways you can’t contribute; focus on what you can do to support your loved one.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.