Just because you’re not physically present to provide care for someone, such as an elderly parent, who needs help managing a health condition and/or day-to-day activities, doesn’t make you any less of a caregiver than someone who is.
Some people have the mistaken impression that being physically removed from the situation means that long-distance caregivers “have it easy” ...
Some people have the mistaken impression that being physically removed from the situation means that long-distance caregivers “have it easy” or that they’re not pulling their weight in terms of sharing the responsibilities. In fact, long-distance caregivers face challenges too, and can be just as involved as primary caregivers.
If you’re a remote caregiver here are some long-distance caregiving tips to help you stay involved and avoid the all too common guilt that accompanies long-distance caregiving.
1. Regularly check-in on the care recipient’s well-being
Ask the people who are in regular contact with the person in need of care to alert you of any concerns they may have about the person’s well-being. Remember to ask permission from the person in your care if this is okay to do before proceeding. It’s important to show the person in your care that you respect their opinion in matters that concern them.
2. Stay in touch via phone, e-mail, video calls, and visits
Stay in touch with the person you’re taking care of via phone or email, and try to visit as often as financially possible. The time you spend communicating with the person you’re taking care of provides them with emotional support and helps take some of the pressure off of the primary caregiver.
3. Take responsibility for caregiving tasks you can do remotely
Offer to take on the responsibility of arranging for respite services, hiring home health and nursing staff, paying bills, researching health conditions and treatments, and updating family and friends. All of these tasks can be done online and will give the primary caregiver some much-needed time away from the responsibilities of caregiving to recharge their batteries, take care of personal matters, or just relax.
4. Manage your care recipient’s records.
As a long-distance caregiver you can volunteer to keep track of the care recipient’s personal, health, financial, and legal records. This task involves getting permission from the person in your care to give you access to their records, and in some cases, may involve getting a power of attorney. If you’re not the primary caregiver, most of this information may have already been gathered, so talk to them prior to starting this project. They may be able to tell you what information is still missing or point you in the right direction to find what you’re looking for. As the person overseeing these records, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all financial matters, including paying off bills and debts, and making the insurance payments, are taken care of in a timely manner.
5. Pay attention to your care recipient’s behaviour during your visits
On your next visit to the person’s home, pay attention to his or her behaviour and actions to determine whether or not they’re managing just fine on their own. If a primary caregiver is involved, discuss your concerns with them, being very sensitive in how you frame the discussion to avoid causing friction. Behaviours that concern you, such as depression, anxiety, or lack of focus while driving, may have become “normal” or familiar with the primary caregiver. Be careful not to sound accusing and instead focus on finding a real solution to any issues.
6. Offer ongoing respite for the primary caregiver
Offer to give the primary caregiver some respite from his or her responsibilities by taking your next vacation with the person you’re both taking care of. You may also arrange for respite services to be provided in the person’s home, or the person can spend time at adult day services, programs or facilities.
Communicating with the person in your care and the primary caregiver – if there is one – is the best way you can stay involved as a long-distance caregiver. It tells them that you’re concerned about their well-being and want to help in the best way you can.
If you’re the primary caregiver, albeit a remote one, staying in contact with the person in your care ensures that you’re in the loop on matters pertaining to their physical and mental well-being, finances, and legal issues, and can help you mitigate any unforeseen emergencies.