4 Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers
Providing care for a family member or someone you love is rewarding, but it can also come with its own set of challenges. And when you are a long-distance caregiver, those challenges can become even more difficult.
At BCSLA, we provide educational resources about senior living in British Columbia. Below, we highlight some important tips for long-distance caregivers. If you are caring for a loved one from afar, these helpful insights can empower you to provide the highest standard of care, even while you are away.
1. Plan Your Visits
As a long-distance caregiver, you probably place special importance on in-person visits. Depending on the distance you must travel to reach your family member, you may be able to see them once a month – or less often than that. Because of this, you will want to plan your visits carefully to ensure you can handle any necessary health-related issues, but also so you can prioritize making your visit one that is full of joy and love.
To maximize their time, some caregivers make the mistake of planning too much for a single visit. Of course, the sentiment is correct – you want to take care of everything at once, plus leave time for special activities or events. But unfortunately, this strategy can often work against you. When you plan for everything, you may find yourself rushing from one appointment to another, from one activity to the next, or simply running out of time.
Instead of trying to fit everything into a single visit, choose two to three of the most important items on your list.
- Do you need to meet with their primary care provider?
- Are there other family/friends you want to connect with while you’re in town?
- Do you want to allow for “downtime” when you can spend time together without having anything on the schedule?
Plan these items into your itinerary and give yourself an additional 30–60-minute buffer for things like health checkups and appointments.
By planning your visit this way, you give yourself the time and freedom to truly create a meaningful experience for you and your family member – without running the risk of caregiver burnout.
2. Create a Regular Communication Routine
One of the most important tips for long-distance caregivers is to create a regular communication routine. This may include talking regularly with not only your family member but the people in their area responsible for supporting them – in some cases, this includes physicians, in-home aides, neighbours, and friends.
When it comes to setting up your communication routine, you want to determine when you will communicate and how.
- Is your family member most comfortable talking on the phone, or do they prefer video tools such as Zoom?
- Do they have access to online tools, including email and chat messengers?
The key to establishing a successful communication routine is creating an environment that makes your communication easy to do on a consistent basis.
If your family member is living with dementia, you may need special accommodations to maintain communication. As the Alzheimer Society of Canada explains, “Modern technology makes it possible to help distant family members feel close. Keep in mind, however, that equipment may only be useful for those in the early stages of the disease.”
3. Arrange for Additional Care
Despite all the care and effort that you can provide as a long-distance caregiver, there may come a time when you need to rely on additional support. Whether this requires an in-home caregiver or exploring senior living in British Columbia, there are options available to you.
A professional caregiver (whether in-home or at a community) can meet the needs of your family member, and they will work in collaboration with the primary physician and you to create the best care plan.
4. Remember Your Own Needs
As HealthLink BC points out, your family member is not the only one who needs consistent and reliable care. Caregiver isolation and burnout are a growing problem in Canada, which is why HealthLink BC makes several recommendations for prioritizing your physical and mental health:
- Get regular exercise
- Eat healthy meals and snacks
- Get enough sleep
- Take time to complete activities that you enjoy
- Take time for regular medical checkups
By following these important tips for long-distance caregivers, you can ensure that you and your family member enjoy a healthy and joyful relationship, no matter how far away you may be. We invite you to visit our blog for more information on senior living in British Columbia and caregiving topics.