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Long-Distance Caregiving

As we make decisions about career and family, sometimes we find ourselves hundreds or thousands of miles away from loved ones, such as parents, who may need help as they age. This distance can complicate the responsibilities of being a caregiver. About seven million adults in the United States are caregivers for family members who live an hour or more away. When you can't be there in-person, you face a unique set of challenges. Here are some tips for long-distance caregivers:

View our Take Care of the Caregiveronline seminar by Barbara K. Moeller, RN, PHN (aired May 15, 2012).

  • Bring Your Strengths to the Table. Connect with onsite caregivers and determine how your skill sets complement one another. Even though you aren't there in-person, ask how you can help. Perhaps your strength is organization – like collecting, monitoring and reconciling your loved one's medical bills or consolidating important documents such as an advanced directive or financial papers. Through this help, you'll ensure you are involved in your loved one's care and you are fulfilling an important need.
  • Know Your Limitations. Work as a team with the onsite caregivers to help provide care, but be clear with yourself and them about what you can accomplish.
  • Visit as Often as You Can. Although you may talk frequently by phone, it is important that you visit regularly. Extending this extra effort will make all the difference in how you both feel about your loved one's quality of care.
  • Monitor for Signs of Neglect. Always keep your loved one's physical, financial and emotional health and safety top of mind. By visiting in-person and speaking with onsite caregivers often, you can monitor for warning signs of neglect, such as physical injuries or changes in personality and behavior. Encourage your loved one to speak openly any time they feel vulnerable or unsafe.

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