Today, more and more of us are faced with caring for a loved one that lives an hour or more away. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than five million U.S. residents are long-distance caregivers, and this number will continue to grow.
For many families, finding a balance for the patient, day-to-day caregiver, and the long-distance caregiver is a struggle, to say the least. Many long-distance caregivers feel frazzled, frustrated, and guilty for not being able to be “hands-on.” Often times, this also leads to frustration and resentment – even health impacts – on the part of the person providing the day-to-day care.
Finding ways to communicate, share information, and remain involved in caregiving decisions is key, and there are a number of ways to do this. For some, phone calls and occasional visits are enough. For others, frequent traveling to doctor’s appointments and scheduled treatments are a way of life. Still others are utilizing technology to help them stay in the loop, which has been made even easier with web-based organizers like Caregiver’s Touch.
Beyond solutions like Caregiver’s Touch, the National Institute on Aging’s publication So Far Away – Twenty Questions for Long-Distance Caregivers (available online and in printed form) is full of tips to help long-distance caregivers remain involved in their loved one’s care, including:
• Reaching out to your loved one’s neighbor’s, friends, and doctors
• Things to check for when you visit – food in the house, safety hazards, mood, driving skills, etc.
• How to decide who does what by recognizing strengths and limitations
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you cannot care for your loved one if you are not properly caring for yourself. Long-distance caregivers need support as well. Know when it is OK not to visit. Take advantage of support systems and resources available to you. And, keep the lines of communication open between you, your loved one, and the people providing hands on care.
Carrie Hastriter is a co-founder of Caregiver’s Touch, a web-based organizational tool that empowers caregivers by capturing all of a loved one’s information in one place. This comprehensive solution enhances collaboration among family members and other caregivers with the ability to easily share information via the secure Caregiver’s Touch website. Downloading information using the Caregiver’s Touch smartphone application provides the additional convenience of accessing critical information wherever one is, whenever it is needed.