Just because you’re not physically present to provide care for someone such as a parent who needs help managing a health condition and/or day-to-day activities, doesn’t make you any less of a caregiver than someone who is.
Some people have the mistaken impression that being physically removed from the situation means that long-distance caregivers “have it easy” or that they’re not “pulling their weight” in terms of sharing the responsibilities. In fact, long-distance caregivers also face challenges and can be just as involved as primary caregivers.
If you’re a long-distance caregiver, here are some tips to help you stay involved and avoid the all-too-common guilt that accompanies long-distance caregiving.
Regularly check-in on the person’s well-being
Ask the people who are in regular contact with the person in need of care to alert you of any concerns they may have about the person’s well-being. Remember to ask permission from the person in your care if this is okay to do before proceeding. It’s important to show the person in your care that you respect their opinion in matters that concern them.
Stay in touch via phone, e-mail, video calls, and visits
Stay in touch with the person you’re taking care of and try to visit as often as possible. The time you spend communicating with the person you’re taking care of provides them with emotional support and helps relieve the primary caregiver of some responsibility.
Take responsibility for caregiving tasks that you can do remotely
Offer to take on the responsibility of arranging for respite services, hiring home health care and nursing staff, paying bills, and updating family and friends. All of these tasks can be done online and will give the primary caregiver some much-needed time away from the responsibilities of caregiving to take care of personal matters or just relax.
As a long-distance caregiver, you can volunteer to keep track of the care recipient’s personal, health, financial, and legal records. This task involves getting permission from the person in your care to give you access to their records and may involve getting a Power of Attorney or becoming a Substitute Decision Maker. If you’re not the primary caregiver, most of this information may have already been gathered, so talk to them prior to starting this project. They may be able to tell you what information is still missing or point you in the right direction to find what you’re looking for. As the person overseeing these records, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all financial matters including paying off bills and debts are taken care of in a timely manner. Whether you hold a formal Power of Attorney or are taking care of financial matters on an informal basis, it is important to keep accurate accounting records of your activities, including keeping receipts for all expenditures and bills paid.
Work closely with the primary caregiver
It is advisable to keep the communication between you and the primary caregiver open and consult with them about how you can be most helpful. This can help to reduce conflict and tension between a primary caregiver and a long-distance caregiver. It is best for everyone if you work together as a team.
If you’re the primary caregiver, albeit a remote one, staying in contact with the person in your care and the other caregivers ensures that you’re in the loop on matters pertaining to their physical and mental well-being, finances, and legal issues. This can help you mitigate any unforeseen emergencies.