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Long Distance Caregiving

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Long Distance Caregiver - Challenges and Solutions

By: Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW

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Families who struggle to care for a parent across the miles have a unique disadvantage. They cannot be there to know what is really happening. It is often difficult and frustrating to reach doctors or social service agencies and to be able to coordinate the needed care. The older parent may forget what the doctor has told them, or choose not to “burden” their child with problematic information. Indeed, many adult children are not aware that there is a problem until a visit is made, and they see the changes in the parent’s physical, mental or emotional functioning.

Situations that might occur would involve the following scenarios:

  • The older parent is a danger to himself

  • There are safety issues in the home environment

  • The older parent is wandering and is confused

  • Short-term memory is getting worse

  • Other people in the community may be taking advantage of the older person, either financially or emotionally

There are a number of challenges that the adult child faces when dealing with long-distance care of an older parent. These include the following:

  • When phone conversations are held, everything sounds fine. “No need to worry dear. I’m doing fine on my own,” when you know in your gut that everything is not fine.

  • Trusting someone else with the day-to-day care when you think you should be the one to provide the care.

Dealing with the various emotions often associated with caregiving, such as:

  • Guilt - over the fact that you are not able to be physically present all the time

  • Grief - over your relative’s decline in health

  • Resentment - over the fact that you don’t live closer and that others are doing moreSadness -since your relative is showing signs of decline

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