AARP AARP States Colorado

The Caregiver's Cairn: Long-Distance Caregiving

JB2

Blog by Jane Barton

Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. A little break in the caregiving action is good for the mind, body, and spirit.

As I noted in previous postings, I have served as a caregiver numerous times for family members and friends. Each journey of caregiving was a unique experience - unique due to the particulars of each situation. The person. Our relationship. The disease process. The time of life. And the location. As a teenager, I cared for my mom in our home. As an adult, I cared for my dad from a distance - a long distance. Consequently, I learned that local and long-distance caregiving entail common concerns and responsibilities; however, long-distance caregiving poses additional, daunting challenges. Due to the mobile nature of our society today, most families are geographically dispersed - scattered to the four winds! Hence, long-distance caregiving has been, is, or will be a concern for the majority of families in the United States.

According to the National Institute on Aging, there are over seven million long-distance caregivers in the United States. What constitutes long-distance caregiving? If you live more than one hour away from the care receiver, you are a long-distance caregiver. So, you don’t have to live on the other side of the planet to experience the challenges of long-distance caregiving. If you are a long-distance caregiver, please check out the helpful tips offered by AARP in the Caregiver Resource Center.

Caregiving can be challenging whether you are a local or long-distance caregiver. Depending on the nature and duration of care required, caregivers are often challenged physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Furthermore, long-distance caregiving poses some challenges that are noteworthy:

  • Hidden Truths - Without feet on the ground and eyes on the care receiver, long-distance caregivers have a difficult time accurately assessing the situation. Care receivers often attempt to protect family and friends by hiding the truth. Although the intent is noble, the consequences of hidden truths is often devastating for the care receiver and the long-distance caregiver.
  • Undetected Elder Abuse - Detection of elder abuse can be difficult and delayed for long-distance caregivers. Word to the wise. Trust your gut. If you sense something is wrong, check it out sooner rather than later.
  • Local and Long-Distance Caregiver Conflict - Within families, local caregivers often feel as if long-distance caregivers don’t “get it” - the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual strain of caregiving. As a result, relationships can be fractured if not broken. To avoid irreparable harm, families are well advised to establish ground rules of care, roles and responsibilities, and a plan of care early in the process.
  • The Move - The complicating factor in long-distance caregiving is obvious - long distance! Consequently, many families jump to the conclusion that moving the care receiver closer to the caregiver(s) is the answer. PLEASE consider this option carefully before making the move. In hindsight, many families recognize the move as the beginning of the end.

If long-distance caregiving is your current or future reality, I invite you to consider the complicating factor of long distance. Planning is always advisable when it comes to the journey of caregiving. In the case of long-distance caregiving, planning is mandatory to address and thereby mitigate the additional challenges. Prepare to care from a distance - ultimately a gift for you and your family.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we can improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.  

About AARP Colorado
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.