Seven Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving
I was pleased to contribute to the article published on OprahDaily.com called “Yes, You Can Care for Your Aging Parents from Afar.” It’s written by Amy Conway, a journalist and family Caregiver who is currently the long-distance Caregiver for her mother. The article is a mixture of tips from experts as well as things she and her brother learned through experience.
Long-Distance Caregiving Tips
Conway goes into more depth about these issues:
- Doing some gentle “detective work” to figure out what your parents need to be safe and well. In-person visits are best for a true assessment.
- When visiting, be observant but not overbearing. Older adults may be afraid of what might happen if you notice they’re not managing as well as before.
- Try the “cottage cheese” test. Look in their refrigerator to see if they’re eating well or is food outdated or inadequate?
- Connect with their existing network. Get neighbors’ and friends’ contact info on your next visit with your aging parent and ask them to contact you if they notice any health or safety concerns.
- After you get an honest read of their living situation, figure out how each sibling can best help. This is based on each of your personal strengths, proximity to your parent’s home, and how much time each of you has based on your stage of life (i.e., still working or retired).
- Stay in touch with your aging parents and siblings regularly. Don’t make the conversations and/or visits only about caregiving to-do’s. Be sure to enjoy quality family time together, as it is very precious.
- Be aware and grateful for all the local Caregiver does — and remember to thank them for it.
Her Long-Distance Caregiving Journey
Conway shares candidly how she and her brother’s caregiving partnership evolved:
- The difficult realization that her mom was aging and needed care.
- Figuring out what the best (aka safest) living situation was for her mother. Even though her mom had lived close to Conway for many years, changes were made which put Conway in the new role of long-distance Caregiver.
- Dividing caregiving responsibilities. Learning the most effective ways she could help from afar while her brother shouldered the “up close and personal” caregiving. Conway writes, “I’m happy when my brother delegates to me because I know it takes something off his plate.”
- How open communication is key to caregiving in a sibling partnership — and for all family caregiving teams.
- How to maintain a good sibling relationship while caregiving.
Each family has many variables, so there is no one-size-fits-all for long-distance caregiving. Being aware of, and sensitive to, your aging loved ones’ needs and safety are important forces driving care decisions. And my book, The Conscious Caregiver, contains a whole chapter with more suggestions to make long-distance caregiving easier.