Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Making the Most of Long-Distant Caregiving

When you are living far away from an aging loved one, it can be challenging to find ways to help, and difficult to decide when the situation is serious enough to visit. If you are a long distance caregiver, you are not alone. Approximately 7 million adults are long-distance caregivers, caring for a parent who lives an hour or more away.

Arbor Hospice social workers often speak with patients and family members living with this reality. While it may seem impossible, there are ways to overcome the distance and find a way to help. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as someone telling you what to do and when to do it. However, the following list contains suggestions that our social workers give to both local and long-distance caregivers:

  • Share information about your loved one's illness, prognosis and condition with other family members. It is easier for someone to feel involved when they know what is going on.
  • Find ways to stay in touch. If your loved one is able to communicate, use Skype to visit regularly. And, if your loved one is unable to communicate, ask a family member or friend to hold the phone to your loved one's ear. Even if he/she cannot respond, it is likely that he/she hears you.
  • Follow the lead of your loved one when determining what you can do to help. Once you turn to hospice care, it may seem as though there is less for you to do. You no longer have to worry about doctor's office visits or medication pick-up. Keep in mind, that your presence and continued communication is very significant.
  • If deciding when to visit is a concern, think about what you want your remaining experiences with your loved one to be like. Is it more important for you to visit while your loved one can communicate with you, to be present at the end or attend the funeral or memorial?
  • Remember that everyone has a different way of handling difficult situations. Do not expect all of your family members to agree with you or act the same way. Each person copes and grieves differently, and that is okay.
This blog post was written by Jaclyn Klein, Arbor Hospice Communications Specialist with input from the Arbor Hospice Social Workers. You may contact Jaclyn by commenting below or emailing her at jklein@arborhospice.org.

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