e all want to be able to care for our parents. But sometimes, distance makes it difficult.
Whether you're in another state or even another country, it's never easy to be far away from the people you love. When you have to care for your parents from afar, it may seem like there's no way to make it work. But there are ways to make caring for your parents easier on both of you—even if they live across the country. Follow these tips for long-distance parent care:
Have a plan.
- Know your parents' needs. Do they need help with daily tasks like bathing and dressing? Do they want to be more independent or do they require assistance with more than just their basic needs? If the latter is true, how much support does your parent require and how will you know if it's time for additional help from an agency or care provider?
- Know what services are available in the area. Are there any local agencies that can offer respite care (temporary care) or home-based services (in-home care) while you're away? What community events are happening near your parents' home that might provide them with social opportunities and/or entertainment options to keep them engaged and active during your absence.
- List tasks and responsibilities. Create a list of things you will have to do while away from home—both immediate needs as well as ongoing responsibilities such as paying bills or filing paperwork at tax time—and make sure someone else knows about all of this information so they'll be able to step in when needed. Also create a list of tasks for which someone else can step in if needed; for example, ask a friend who lives nearby if he/she would check on mom once every few days while she's sick so she doesn't feel alone during her recovery period
Reassure them as much as possible.
The number one thing you can do is to reassure your parents that they are loved and valued. Try to keep things lighthearted, or at least positive. You might even get a sense of pride from seeing your parent's accomplishments in the caregiving process, like learning how to use new technology or trying new foods.
When you hire help, make sure you're comfortable with the person and know that they're reliable. You should also feel confident that they can provide the right level of care for your parent. It's important to find someone who will be available when you need them and who can be trusted to do things discreetly so as not to upset your parents or other family members. Finally, trust is crucial: if your parent doesn't trust whomever they are hiring on a regular basis, it could negatively impact their well-being.
There are a lot of resources available to help you.
There are many resources that can help you if you're a caregiver from afar. Here are some helpful resources we've found that may be helpful for you.
- Patient File Checklist
- How to find a support group
- Eldercare Locator:
- Questions and answers about long-distance caregiving
- Learning to Think Like a Care Manager
You don't have to give up your life to care for your parents from a distance, but you do need to make plans. This will help ensure that they are well taken care of, and that you're able to enjoy the time you can spend with them.
If you're caring for a parent or a loved one with Dementia,
you can learn more about conquering the challenges of caregiving by watching one of our classes here: Dementia: Conquering the Challenges of Caregiving.