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Long-Distance Caring

Published by: LifeWorks,

Taking care of an older relative or dependent adult can be challenging when you live in the same home or community. It can be that much more difficult when you live far away, especially if your relative has a health problem or difficulty coping with tasks that you might be able to help with if you lived nearby.

Stay in touch

Staying in touch can help you and your older relative feel connected and help ensure that your relative gets good care.

Call regularly. You could agree to call on the same day every week so that your relative can look forward to speaking to you. Call more often if your relative is going through a difficult time. Frequent short conversations are usually more reassuring than occasional long conversations. Regular calls will also give you a sense of how much your relative’s condition has changed from one week to the next. If you cannot call on a regular basis there are agencies that can help check in when you are not available.

There are many alternative ways to stay in touch. Using the telephone may be hard for someone who has trouble hearing or speaking. Write notes (using large letters if eyesight is an issue) and add some photos if these are an option for both of you. You can enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope when you write to encourage your loved one to write back. Have video chats or stay in touch online via social media. If your relative struggles to understand social media, be patient and use what is most convenient and helpful for them.

Make the most of visits*

When you visit your relative, try to:

Plan what you want to accomplish before the visit. Talk to your relative and other family members. Be sure to consider their wishes. Plan ahead if you need to look for community resources or services while visiting.

Before you arrive, let your relative know about any sensitive subjects you want to discuss. Try not to spring things on them.

Choose a time and place where you can talk to your relative without distraction or interruption.

Make time for fun. If you have stressful subjects to talk about, having something to do that you both enjoy while having the conversation can help create a more relaxed atmosphere. Plan to go shopping or to the cinema, or ask your relative for ideas and arrange to do it together.

Carve out free time for yourself. You may want some time to see friends or other family members. Just be sure to let your relative know this and plan in advance.

Spend as much time as you can at your relative’s home. Spend plenty of time outside if the weather is nice.

Stay in touch with your relative. You may have different feelings after you return home, or your relative may have reconsidered suggestions you made. You may both have ideas that you want to share. Keep talking.

*Make sure you check and follow the local government or health authority restrictions and guidelines for travel during the pandemic before planning your visit.

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