When Relatives Live Out of Town
Not all family members live near their loved one. When the time comes for day-to-day caregiving, a long-distance family member may not be able to offer the same level of hands-on care that local family members can. They won’t always be able to hop on a plane to get to your loved one’s bedside. They may feel guilty and anxious because they may feel they’re not carrying the same responsibility that local family members are.
Still, there are many roles that far-away family members can play in the caregiving plan, including gathering information about community resources, paying bills and handling finances.
Long-distance Caregiver as Sole Resource
On the other hand, the long-distance family member may be the only family member, and long-distance caregiving may be the only option.
It is important to monitor your loved one’s ability to manage various daily tasks. Visit the person for a few days to observe their daily routines and to assess the level of assistance he or she may need. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your loved one appear healthy?
- Does he or she have adequate food and regular meals available?
- What is the condition of the home? Has there been a marked change since your last visit?
- Are the bills paid and up-to-date?
- Is the loved one in regular contact with friends, family and/or neighbors?
- How does the person appear physically? Are they bathing regularly, taking care of grooming, etc.?
- If the individual still drives, are they safely operating their car? Take a ride with them to assess this.
In order to satisfy yourself on these questions, you should also talk with your loved one’s neighbors, doctors, friends and any other people they are close with.
Use Your Visits Wisely
As a long-distance caregiver, you will probably not be able to spend as much time with your loved one as you would like. Be sure you spend your visiting time effectively, gathering the information you need to maintain your peace of mind and your loved one’s safety.
- Make any appointments you need to with professionals in your loved one’s life, including doctors, attorneys, financial advisors.
- Use the Vial of Life Fact Sheet in the Options & Resources section of this website to document all of your loved one’s important financial and medical information. You will access this information time and time again.
- Also plan to meet with friends, family and neighbors to gather their observations. Ask about noticeable changes in habits, dress/hygiene, behavior, etc.
- Spend time with your loved one talking, listening to music, taking a walk, playing cards or doing anything else that’s enjoyable for you both. It’s important to connect with each visit.
Taking Leave from Employment
You may need to take a certain amount of leave from your job, especially at the beginning, in order to organize your caregiving team and formulate your plan. Consult your employer’s human resources department to discuss the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the provisions available to you as a family caregiver.
Turn to others for help
Your loved one’s friends and neighbors can be an important support system for you, helping to ensure the person’s safety and give you peace of mind.
- Ask family members and friends to visit regularly and to keep in touch with you. Email is a great way to check in regularly.
- Neighbors are a great resource because they can check in regularly. Ask them to do so.
- Your loved one’s church, synagogue, card club or other community group may be able to provide companion services.
- The doctor’s office of your loved one’s physician can be a great resource. Be sure to establish regular communication with the staff there.
- You may want to find an attorney in your loved one’s area who is practiced in elder law. Visit the National Academy of elder Law Attorney’s website for resources.
- You may be able to take advantage of the community resources noted in this chapter to fill in gaps in your caregiving plan.
Draw on Community Resources
You will find a helpful phone script to help you make and document these calls in the Planning section of Options & Resources on this website.