In the U.S. an estimated 11 percent of caregivers live at least an hour away from their loved one in need of care. Along with the everyday stress of managing their own busy schedule, comes the agony of being far away from their family member in case an emergency were to occur. Being in a situation where distance is a key-factor can make being a long-distance caregiver double of everything – concerns, pressure, and worry. Long-distance caregivers also tend to spend more money than local caregivers. Additional costs may include: salary as well as room-and-board for in-home care, shipment of medical supplies not covered by insurance, un-paid time off of work when needed, and travel expenses.
As a long-distance caregiver, often-times you may feel anxious about the thought of not being there when your loved one needs you the most. You may also begin to feel helpless due to the fact that you are missing out on special or crucial moments. If the feeling of guilt begins to feel overwhelming, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can given the circumstances. Having a family support system can also be a great help, allowing each member to have their own role to ensure one person does not carry too much weight on their back. Through the guilt, there are still ways you can be an effective caregiver.
- Find out what your loved one needs – Depending on your loved one’s condition, communication channels can be limited. When communicating with your loved one and/or their local caregiver, ask lots of questions. Do they need specialized food or personal hygiene items? Does something around the house need to be fixed? Is transportation still under control?
- Make sure you know enough about your loved one’s condition – Research and blogs will help you understand just what it is your loved one is going through. You could also research caution advice (i.e., what can be done to prevent a crisis; where the nearest hospital located is; how to keep your loved one protected from fraud or abuse).
- Stay in touch – To ensure all parties involved remain on the same page, be sure to stay in constant contact with your loved one’s local caregiver and all medical providers. Being the local caregiver in this situation can also come with a load of stress, it could be easy for them to miss a crucial aspect of the treatment plan. Repetitive information is a lot better than missed information.
- Have an emergency plan – Have time off from work as well as extra money set aside in case you need to make an unexpected visit. Saving at least two days’ worth of paid time off could be a good starting point. At your earliest convenience, it would also be beneficial to start a saving account where you set aside what you are comfortable with per paycheck. Know that it is okay to start small if money is tight.
- Plan visits to spend quality time – Find time to reminisce on how fun times used to be before your loved one’s diagnosis, for both of you. Most times, the one being cared for needs a break away from knowing their life has changed. Whether the activity is something small such as driving to a favorite destination or playing a board game, allow your loved one to feel as if they are not fragile and have not changed in your eyes.
If you would like more information on care-giving resources throughout Arizona, reach out to FSL’s Care by Design program today by calling 602-285-1800 or visiting our website here.