“Caring for someone who lives far away from you adds to caregiver stress.”
The American Association of Retired People (AARP) offers some tips for this unique group of caregivers:
Collect Important Information Before a Crisis – Compile a list of addresses and phone numbers of your care recipient’s contacts (ex. friends, neighbours, doctors, faith leaders etc.) who can be reached in the event of an emergency or who can assist with activities. Introduce yourself during a visit and consider giving a key to someone on this list if your care recipient consents. Give a copy of this list to your loved one and keep a copy for yourself.
Make Visits Productive. Visiting should be enjoyable but also take the time to make necessary preparations: scheduling necessary appointments, purchasing items that are needed, going through mail and old papers, checking the refrigerator and pantry to asses eating habits, and assessing their home for safety hazards (ex. loose rugs, missing handrails or poor lighting). During your visit you may realize that your care recipient requires more help on a regular basis.
Get Help with Managing the Care – You can learn about different public and private assistance programs online for which your care recipient might be eligible. Call your local Information & Referral service, search the Yellow Pages, visit community centres, seniors’ centres and libraries for local services.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open – Listen to your loved one. They may find it difficult facing change and resist having strangers, such as caregivers, in their home. Maintain a positive and patient approach and take the time to explain to your care recipient how the services will work and that they are designed to help them remain independent. Consider having an objective third party, like a doctor, recommend the service(s).
Don’t Forget Your Needs. Long-distance caregiving is straining; take the time to take care of yourself, eat right, exercise and get enough sleep and take credit for all of your hard work. Accept help from community services or your care recipient’s contacts and consider a family meeting to divide care responsibilities or help resolve any issues.
Adapted from the “United Way Metro Vancouver Family & Friends Caregivers Information and Resource Handbook 2016/17” with permission from the author, the late Katherine Willett and www.aarp.org.