If family caregiving wasn’t hard enough, let’s throw distance into the mix. 7 million people consider themselves long-distance caregivers in the U.S. Trying to figure out what’s going on with Mom and Dad when they live on one coast and you the other can sometimes seem an impossible task. Whether to travel or not depends on what kind of relationship you have with your parents. Do you know your parents style of communication: Do they tend to call you for every little issue or do they put off calling you until they’re in the hospital with a heart attack? How much information gathering can you do over the phone, relying on friends and professionals? When you do travel, make sure you have a goal or a to-do list. Some of the initial decisions that Jim McCabe of Eldercare Resources shares on “Caring from a Distance” are:
- What are their immediate needs? Safety? Hygiene? Healthcare? (Again, some of this can be gathered over the phone. Check out this resource from National Institute on Aging)
- How do you put a plan together that includes supportive services & people—Do you parents need meals on wheels or help around the house or medical support? (Key resources might be your local senior center, Area Agency on Aging, or Geriatric Care Manager)
- Once you’ve left, who are your eyes and ears on the ground to help monitor how your parents are doing? (neighbors, friends, church, etc.)
Yes we must attend to the numerous details of caregiving—whether we’re doing so from a distance or not—but I also encourage you to make room in your schedule to “hang out” with your parents. Unplanned time will not only be good for your souls, but will also give you further clues as to how your parents are getting on. Let the memories, the fears, the tears and the laughs enter into these moments and connect with your parents over every day life. These are precious times amidst the nitty-gritty of family caregiving. As always, contact me if you need further coaching around distance caregiver.