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Long Distance Caregiving

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Starting the Conversation:
Approaches for Helping Your Loved Ones

by Chris Cremean, LSW

Caregivers need all the help they can get. One of the most difficult barriers to helping a loved one is knowing the best approaches to addressing the issues that need to be addressed. It all comes down to building, or in some cases, rebuilding relationships with those loved ones. There are three areas that need to be tackled: communication, planning, and family dynamics.


There is the direct approach to communication: “You NEED to do this,” “You SHOULD make out a will or plan your funeral arrangements.” The problem with this approach is that most people don’t want people TELLING them what to do. They will be more apt to tune them out and not pursue the thing you are trying to get them to do.

A more effective approach is the indirect one. Don’t be confrontational. Make suggestions that the person look into the subject or point out experiences that others had with the area of concern and how it worked out (or didn’t) in their case. “Cousin Ned sure was glad that Aunt Mable made out that advanced directive in deciding how to handle Uncle Fred’s stroke.” This will place the idea in the person’s head and sometimes they will bring it up themselves at a time when they are ready to deal with it.

The most important thing in communication is to keep doing it, communicating. Think of it as an ongoing discussion and not a “We have to get this done and move on.” Most decisions are for something in the future.


Timing is everything. Remember the indirect communication approach? Crisis can be avoided by planning for the future. Always remember whom the planning is for. Each of us wants to have the final say in any decision that affects us directly. Your role is to help bring the information to the person so they can make an informed decision. You will also know what’s what by doing this.

Be aware that government benefits have a bias towards institutional care, not the place of choice – home. finances will dictate options at various points in the life journey; income, resources, insurance, benefit programs.

Family Dynamics

To a parent, you will ALWAYS be the child. Look around and see what supports are there. Reach out to siblings, relatives, friends and service providers. The most successful people to deal with caregiving situations are those who build a strong team of support and don’t try to go it alone. This will also allow for all those involved to keep from getting stressed out.

Above all, remember -



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