Caregiving When Your Parent Is in Another City

ADVISOR ANSWERS

Q: How can I be an effective caregiver from far away? I don't feel comfortable just jumping in, but I think my help is needed.

A: If you are a long-distance caregiver, you aren't alone. Approximately 7 million adults are long-distance care givers, mostly caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away.

Long-distance care giving takes many forms -- from helping manage the money to arranging for in-home care; from providing respite care to give the primary caregiver a break to helping a parent move to a new home or facility. Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of home health aides, insurance benefits, and durable medical equipment.

Care giving is often a long-term task. What might start out as an occasional social phone call to share family news can eventually turn into regular phone calls about managing health insurance claims, getting medical information, and arranging for respite services (help for the care giver). What begins as a monthly trip to check on Mom may turn into a larger project to move her to a nursing facility close to your home.

Many long-distance caregivers provide emotional support and occasional respite to a primary caregiver who is in the home. Long-distance caregivers can play a part in arranging for professional care givers, hiring home health and nursing aides, or locating assisted living and nursing home care. Some long-distance caregivers help a parent pay for care, while others step in to manage finances.

Care giving is not easy for anyone, not for the care giver and not for the care recipient. From a distance, it may be especially hard to feel that what you are doing is enough, or that what you are doing is important. It usually is.