Stay on top of things from afar
Get started with long-distance caregiving through this simple guide
Taking care of your older parents or relatives when you stay far away comes with its own set of challenges. You can be an effective caregiver and not feel guilty about not being by their side 24/7 by following certain steps. If you ever find yourself in a long- distance caregiver’s role, follow these tips: When you’re caring for someone from a distance, you may find yourself on the phone far more than usual, between checking in with health care providers, scheduling appointments and keeping finances in order. But it’s also important to regularly check in with the person who is ill; don’t wait for them to call you when there is a problem. Checking in regularly, at a time when it is convenient for you, helps you stay in control of your schedule and time, and provides the opportunity to prevent a crisis. If you are fortunate enough to have a sibling or other close family members, divide the caregiving tasks. This could mean that one person focuses on finances while another handles the medical aspects. It’s hard enough keeping track of our own schedules, let alone managing that of someone who requires regular medical attention and lives in another location. At the very least, this involves two people and two different schedules, but if others — like partners, siblings or close friends — also play roles in the caregiving, coordinating schedules is even more essential. This ensures that everyone attends the appointments they’re supposed to, bills are paid on time, and everyone is picked up from the airport when necessary.
Shared Google calendars are one way to make sure everyone is on the same page. There are also a number of apps that help you coordinate with your loved one and other caregivers. Some application can also help users keep track of medications, medical appointments and insurance information. Part of self- care is knowing when you’ve taken on too much and should ask for help. This can involve everything from logistical support, like asking a neighbour to check in on your loved one, to social support for yourself. Part of asking for help may also involve speaking with your employer about needing time off from work. If at all possible, be honest with your boss about why you need to adjust your schedule, and realistic about the amount of time you may need to take off. This is a situation where the ability to work remotely would be helpful, but even then, it can be difficult to keep up with conference calls and emails alongside doctors’ appointments. Make sure you discuss clear expectations of any arrangement with your boss to ensure that you are both on the same page and nothing falls through the cracks.
In addition to work, distance caregivers also often have families of their own, with obligations to both their parents and children. For someone with responsibility for multiple family members in different locations, logistics can be difficult, especially when emergencies require schedules to be readjusted quickly. When it is approached as a choice, rather than a duty or obligation, caring for a loved one long distance can increase positive emotions and offset stress.
Anne Hathaway says, “The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me”
Hillary Clinton was a champion of caregiver support before becoming a caregiver herself to her ailing mother