Caring Across the Miles

Everyone faces the constant challenge of keeping in touch with family and loved ones every day. Just because your job and/or physical location prevents you from helping family and friends doesn’t mean you can’t support them. Today, caring for friends and relatives from a distance is an increasingly common challenge encountered by many people in this country. People usually associate the separation of a family with the departure for college or the career of a young adult in a distant state, but remember, older friends and relatives also move to enjoy retirement in far away places.

You can assess your friend/family member’s specific needs by creating a plan that involves everyone. First find answers to questions regarding the person’s needs, desires, conditions, and health and base a flexible plan on this information.

Second, create a network of resources that fulfill this plan and stay in contact with them. If family and friends are unavailable to help, find neighbors and other people in the community who can do the little things that distance prevents you from doing yourself.

Consider help from organizations such as volunteer groups, community & civil groups, and church groups. The most distant friends and relatives can assist with paperwork, mailings and arrange various services by telephone. An informal support network of family and friends can make visits, run errands, and provide transportation, especially for elderly people who may have a hard time getting around.

Third, ask the friend and/or family member about their needs whenever you talk to them. Make a list of topics to discuss when you call them on the telephone to help make your time productive, but don’t forget to express feelings of caring and love toward them too. Have them start a list to keep track of items and services needed.

When is a personal visit necessary?

Consider the personality of a person before you decide if a physical visit is necessary, but remember, if it’s been eighteen months since you’ve physically seen your father in California, maybe it’s time to plan a trip there. Think if the person is hiding his/her true feelings so they don’t make you worry (and vice versa).

A stressful role to play

The numerous demands of long distance caregiving can tax your emotional, financial, and physical resources. Try to do all that you can without depleting your own marriage/relationships, family, career, and well-being. Talk openly and honestly so feelings of guilt, resentment, and anger don’t cloud important issues.

The following books can provide some additional assistance:

Long Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide for Far Away Caregivers by Angela Heath
Taking Care of Your Aging Family Members (newest edition) by Wendy Lustbader and Nancy R. Hooyman.

Consider physical, mental, and/or emotional needs when caring across the miles while maintaining an active plan that keeps all parties involved. Going that extra mile with helpful efforts can reduce the actual miles between you and your loved ones.

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