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Caring from a Distance

By: Judith Cameron - Updated: 9 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Care Caring Carer Caregiver Health

Even if you don’t live near to your loved one, you can care from afar. Caring takes many forms and you may be able to give support in arranging financial affairs, offering a holiday respite for caregivers who deal with your loved one’s daily well-being, finding out information about treatment and support available locally or as the family co-ordinator for your loved one’s various care requirements.

What Care can you Offer?

Caring is often a long-term occupation and you need to be realistic about what you support you can offer as a distance caregiver. Make a list of appropriate tasks that you can undertake. The following is only a guide and you need to work out what is pertinent to your own situation.

  • Make contact with your loved one’s doctor and arrange an appointment to visit the surgery together when you next visit.
  • Are there any nearby neighbours or friends who can drop in frequently and let you know if something is amiss?
  • Find out what services are available in the local area either from voluntary organisations or the local authority.
  • Keep in close communication with the primary carer and arrange visits in order to give them a break.
  • If care is provided through a private agency or local authority, ask for a record book to be kept alongside any care plan. This will give everyone a reference with regard to medication, hospital appointments and care treatment.
  • Whatever illness or disability has affected your loved one, find out as much as you can about it. This helps you understand their problems and is useful when discussing their care needs with health professionals.
  • If your loved one is in a residential home, make sure that you can talk to them regularly and that they can do so in privacy. This will give you both the peace of mind that should a problem arise, you can be kept aware of it.

Organise your visits in advance

Discuss your proposed visit with your loved one to work out what needs to be addressed when you are with them. If necessary, make a list of whom you need to see and what needs to be done during your stay so that your time is used effectively.

However, as well as sorting out practical issues, this is a great opportunity for you to spend some quality time with your loved one and not just talk about their health problems. Maybe you can take a trip to the cinema or theatre together, or go out for a meal; do the things together that you used to enjoy.

Meet their GP and social worker; it will make things easier for you if you ever need to contact them by phone at a later date. Ensure that your loved one has given the professionals permission to discuss their care needs and health treatment with you.

Have a look around the home to see if any adaptations or aids could be installed to help your loved one lead a more independent life. An appointment with an occupational health therapist may be worthwhile to discuss mobility aids. Most people like to do as much as possible for themselves and if an assessment of their care needs has not been carried out, ask for this to be done either via their GP or social worker.

Take Care of Yourself

Many long distance carers feel guilty that they cannot do more for their loved one. But you are only human and probably already care for others; a spouse or children, as well as holding down a job. You can only do your best and by keeping in close contact with your loved one, letting them know that you are always available at the end of the phone, shows that you care. With an aging population, more and more of us have caring responsibilities that are emotionally draining as well as physically demanding. But unlike previous generations, we no longer live close to our extended families. You are not alone in your plight and organisations like Carers UK (www.carersuk.org) and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers (www.carers.org) can put you in touch with support groups and provide information to help with caring from a distance.

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