In the first two parts of this series, we shared organizing tips—to help you get all your documents and plans in place—and strategies for assembling your long-distance caregiving support team and extended network .
Today’s post is all about the day-to-day routines of long-distance caregiving. Each caregiver’s situation will be unique to their loved one’s specific circumstances, medical issues, and location. There are, however, three core pieces of advice that can be applied to help make any situation more manageable and less stressful.
Keep in touch on a regular basis.
Instead of waiting for your loved one to call you in a moment of crisis, try to create a consistent flow of communication. If you are able to be in touch more frequently, you are less likely to be surprised by “sudden” developments. Also, by being proactive about reaching out before your loved one does, you can gain a little more control over when calls happen and make sure that they are scheduled as conveniently as possible with regards to your schedule.
Make good use of technology.
While your loved one may not be up to speed on all the latest technologies, it’s worth your time and effort to help them learn the basics of a few key tools. For instance:
- If they are able to email and text, that is a great way to minimize phone calls that could be difficult to manage during your work day.
- Digital technologies allow you and your loved one to exchange pictures and videos. These might be purely for social and entertainment purposes, or they might be helpful if you’re trying to explain something or your loved one needs to show you something.
- Visual aides are always helpful. Video calls can help you create a more tangible connection for conversations, one that makes it easier for your loved one to feel seen and heard while also making it easier for you to empathize.
- Finally, there are a number of monitoring and emergency systems that can help give you peace of mind.
Maximize your time when you visit.
When you do visit—whether for an emergency or a routine visit—try to plan ahead so that both you and your loved one get the most out of the time together. Ask ahead of time if there are any household tasks that you can help with while you’re visiting. See about scheduling key appointments with healthcare, legal, or other professionals while you are in town.
But, don’t make your whole visit about productivity. Make sure to leave room for quality time doing things that you can both enjoy together. Maybe you visit friends, or go to lunch at a favorite spot. Perhaps there’s a museum or other attraction that your loved one isn’t able to visit on his or her own. Take time to enjoy yourselves as much as you can.
Taking Care of You
Last, but certainly not least, take time for yourself. Long-distance caregiving is a huge and heavy responsibility. It’s easy to burn out, but if that happens, you won’t be any help to anyone. So, be realistic about what you can take on. You don’t need to do everything yourself, and you aren’t alone. Know when to ask for help, whether from family members, friends, or professionals.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, and run down, look into support groups for caregivers. Sometimes, just being able to talk to someone who shares your experience can make all the difference in the world. And try to keep a healthy and positive perspective on the situation. There will be really hard days that don’t seem to have any silver lining in them whatsoever, but most days you will be able to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ll be able to think of the time you’re spending as a gift rather than a burden.