How you can be a secondary or primary caregiver even from afar

how long distance caregiving can help

In today’s world, many families don’t live close. And we are not always able to provide the hands-on care we would like. If you live an hour or more away from a loved one who needs care, you might wonder what you can do to help. You may be the main person who oversees your loved one’s care (the “primary caregiver”), even though you live far away, or you may be a “secondary caregiver”—a mainstay for someone else, perhaps a sibling. Either way, you’ll play a key role on a caregiving team that supports your loved one.

Long-distance caregiving can take many forms. From afar, you might:

  • Provide emotional support to a primary caregiver
  • Coordinate services for a loved one, such as arranging for household help or in-home care, and follow up to make sure there are no problems
  • Manage a loved one’s medical bills or records
  • Arrange to stay with your loved one while his or her primary caregiver goes on vacation.

Getting a complete and accurate medical diagnosis for physical or mental problems is very important. You’ll want to find out what your relative can do independently—without any support—what can be done with a little help, and what your loved one cannot do at all right now. Then the two of you, and others on your caregiving team, will be in a better position to plan care.

While you may feel you are not able to spend as much time with your loved one as you would like, there are ways to get the most out of visits:

  • Make appointments with your loved one’s physician, lawyer and financial adviser during your visit to participate in decision-making.
  • Meet with neighbors, friends and other relatives to hear how they think your loved one is doing. Ask if there have been any behavioral changes, health problems or safety issues.
  • Take time to reconnect with your loved one by talking, listening to music, going for a walk or participating in activities you enjoy together.
  • Check your loved one’s cupboards and refrigerator to make sure there is enough appropriate food.
  • Review medications to make sure they are being taken as prescribed.
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