3 Tips (You May Have Ignored) to Help You Deal with Long Distance Caregiving
There are millions of long-distance caregivers, and the numbers are growing every day. Distances vary, though loved ones who need care may live in another state or even another country. My parents lived in the same state but 90 miles away. It was a 2-hour commute each way for me.
Caregiving is always challenging but trying to do it from a distance can be a nightmare. The anxiety of not being on top of everything, the fear that something might happen and the guilt that we are somehow neglecting them can be overwhelming.
In the beginning, I was often beside myself because I hadn’t put any strategies in place or established any clear plan to get organized. I also realized that until I felt that I was always in the loop I was never going to calm down.
Once I established my routine for getting up to date information about my parents, and a team to help me respond to that information if need be, I felt a little less stressed. It was still a challenge, but the guidelines listed below helped me cope.
Establish and Maintain Good Communication
The first thing I did was establish myself as the primary contact for all doctors, hospitals, health insurance and social workers. I made sure everyone had my cell phone number along with any paperwork they may need to allow me to ask questions and get information.
I informed everyone that I was the point person for both of my parents, that I was caregiving long distance and needed to check in often.
I made it clear that I needed to be alerted if anything changed and that I was the one who signed off on everything. My Dad graciously allowed me this privilege, and I made sure to always include him, assuring him it was a team effort.
Build a Team
I learned to ask for help from friends and relatives close to my parents. I was blessed with family friends who committed to helping me out as much as possible, a sister who always had my back even though she lived even further away, and an aunt who showed up for weeks at a time to stay with my parents.
I made schedules and kept a calendar, and the entire team knew their exact responsibilities. There was constant tweaking due to crisis medical issues or the changing needs of both of my parents, but once I knew who I could really count on, I never hesitated to reach out and get the help I needed.
Keeping everyone up to date with schedules is now so easy with all the wonderful new apps that have been developed to keep teams and family on the same page.
You can easily create an interactive calendar that can be accessed by everyone involved. Find one that works for you and use it! Remember, caregiving takes a village.
I will never forget my first bout of caregiver burnout. I woke up on a Sunday in my parents’ apartment, shaking with an anxiety attack. It was early in my journey of caring for them, and I thought I was dying.
I made a phone call to one of my fellow caregiver buddies who told me to leave and go home as soon as I had done all my chores. I was appalled. How could I leave early? Nevertheless, I followed the advice, and sure enough, the minute I hit exit 5 on the Jersey Turnpike headed to my own home, I felt better.
I learned many lessons from that experience. I learned that self-awareness was the most important habit I could develop. The more I became aware of what and how I was feeling, the easier it was to avoid letting exhaustion, hunger and anger build up and blindside me.
Also, I realized that when I reached that point of no return and felt that I needed a break, I had to take it. If I didn’t treat myself with love, respect and compassion, I would be in no condition to treat anyone else the same way.
You deserve all the self-care you can muster. It will make you a better caregiver and a happier, healthier human. Ditch the guilt and embrace self-love.
By staying in touch with my loved ones on a daily basis, being informed, having a team and practicing radical self-care I was able to successfully care for my loved ones from a distance.
I was less worried, less guilty and got the support I needed for myself as well as my loved ones. Although not ideal, I was able to make it all work.
I wish all my long-distance Caregiver Warrior brothers and sisters peace and serenity during this challenging experience.
Do you have any tricks or tips you would like to share that helped you as a long-distance caregiver? I would love to hear your comments!