This story was written by Dr. Kerry Byrne @Kerry_Byrne
A quick Google search about long-distance caregiving yields multiple results. Research studies, practical applied tips and stories from caregivers managing care from a distance abound. These are often geared to the person responsible for providing the most care or most responsible for care of a loved one: the primary caregiver.
But what about those of us who are trying to help out from the sidelines of the family?
When you are not the primary caregiver, but want to contribute, knowing how to best help is not always straightforward. Long-distance caregiving became top of mind after a recent trip to see my grandfather.
According to my research in the science of caregiving, our family is taking all the right steps: exploring service options; planning to coordinate visits to provide a break for his wife and primary caregiver; working through short-term and long-term plans.
I feel pretty confident that my grandfather will stay in his own home, supported by a strong and resilient family. Yet, I had a hard time leaving my grandfather last week and returning home. I have this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. I feel helpless. I want to be able to do more and be there more.
One of the main reasons, I want to stay connected is because I like hanging out with my grandfather. I love hearing stories about how and where he grew up. I just like sitting beside him to be honest. Mostly I just want to be part of making him happy and safe. This is hard to do from across the country.
I am grateful to have spent time researching the realities of Tyze users and listening to their unique experiences. Within Tyze networks of care, it is common for different roles to emerge. These supportive roles are often based on the individual skills that each family member brings to the table. Family caregivers often liken their role to that of a full-time job. If the primary caregiver is the CEO, then what would your job title be in the care network?
Here are 4 suggestions for contributing to care from a distance as a supporter:
Hire yourself as the family journalist and head photographer:
Remember the photo of your daughter you just texted to your mom? Print it out, write a short note and pop it into the mail. Encourage other family members to send post cards and pictures of the family to the primary caregiver and the care recipient. Both people will appreciate the extra love, attention and recognition.
Act as the family travel agent:
A geographically dispersed family, caring from a distance, often requires multiple travel arrangements. Find out the best flight deals to the location of your loved one. See if anyone in the family has extra air miles they are willing to part with as their contribution to care. A family member might not have time to go and provide a break for the primary caregiver, but they might have tons of air miles accumulated through work travel. Or offer to help book a vacation for the primary caregiver who might be too overwhelmed to even contemplate where to go.
Study for Chief Care Research Officer:
There are usually many unanswered questions in care situations. Looking for information can be extremely time consuming. Offer to help your family find information about services or a particular disease. Even collecting general information (e.g., blood type, doctor’s name) about your loved one can really help in an emergency. Typing it up so it is all in one place makes it easier to access if crisis strikes.
Serve as the technical guru:
Working at Tyze means that I see the power of technology to help in long-distance caregiving. In our last survey 86% of supporters on networks said Tyze makes it easier to contribute to care from a distance. If you know more about a care circumstance because you are informed via your Tyze network, it is easier to figure out how to pitch in. Other practical technologies include remote monitoring services (e.g., CareLinkAdvantage) or technology designed to facilitate communication with older adults or persons with disabilities (e.g., CanConnect or Claris Companion).
In my search for information (I’m the Chief Care Research Officer in my family), I found several useful resources.Hope they help in some small way:
- ‘So Far Away’ is a practical resource that really goes into how it feels to be a long distance caregiver but also with practical tips. Author: National Institute on Aging in the United States.
- Long-Distance Caregiving: Developing a plan of action, Developed for persons with dementia but applicable to many care circumstances. Author: Alzheimer Society British Columbia.
- Caring at a Distance: Bridging the Gap. Author Carers UK .
Are you caring from a distance? Please take a moment and share your experience with our care and support community – send in tips and strategies used. If you are already using Tyze, let us know what you think. If you would like to try it, click here.