Long-Distance Caregiving 101

As if caregiving wasn’t challenging enough, you’re literally 3,000 miles away and can’t exactly hop on a flight home every weekend to check in on the parents.

Here are some things you can do to help put your mind at ease, alleviate your stress and know that they’re OK.

  • Find someone local. This goes without saying, but perhaps there’s a neighbor, another relative or local social worker you can contact to check in with them regularly.
  • Set up a daily check in call. Some towns have a system—check the department of social services, for example, that calls the elderly once a day. For instance, if they call your mom every day at 11 am and she doesn’t pick up, they’ll call you—or someone local to check on her if she doesn’t pick up and should have answered the phone.
  • Set up video cameras in the house. Of course, you want to be cognizant of your parent’s privacy, but you also want to know what’s going on in the house when you’re not there to keep an eye on things.
  • Set up a system for yourself. Yes, while caregiving can feel like a round-the-clock gig and you’re always on and then guilt can set in for being so far away, try to set up a schedule so you’re in a routine. Do you call mom every other day at 9 pm? Or once a week and check in with someone local for updates? How frequently do you communicate and what is the mode?
  • Set up online bill payments. If you’re also the power of attorney or trustee managing the bills, you’ll definitely want to automate admin matters as much as possible whether that’s the electricity bill for the home or their monthly health insurance.
  • Provide your number to their physicians. Although you’re out of sight, you’re not out of mind. If you’re the health proxy, for instance, make sure pertinent medical practitioners have your contact information readily available.
  • Make the most out of trips. If you can rotate trips among siblings, fabulous! If you can’t and you make the trip to see your parents once a year or slightly more, you’ll need to make the most out of the trips in terms of quality time with them, but also if you need to handle logistics.
  • Cut yourself some slack. Okay, a lot of slack. It may feel like we’re never doing enough. That’s totally normal. You may feel guilty for not living closer. That, too—also normal.
    Seek support. Rely on people in your circle for support during these trying times.