A long-distance caregiver is someone who has the primary responsibility of caring for a loved one in need of care but doesn’t live close enough to drop in regularly and visit. If the distance is far enough that in-person visits are difficult, typically an hour or more of driving time, then you’re a “long-distance” caregiver. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 survey found that 11% of family caregivers fit this definition.1
The Role of a Long-Distance Caregiver
The role a long-distance caregiver plays will depend on the needs of the person you are taking care of. When caring for seniors in their homes, care may include daily visits, financial management, medical advocacy, and household chores. Long-distance caregivers have hurdles to overcome to complete these tasks from afar. In order to effectively provide care from a distance, communication is the key. Some areas that might help the caregiver stay in the loop include:
Arranging Care Services: A lot of organization and work goes into caring for a loved one. These services can be managed from afar, such as home health care, personal and companionship care, meals delivered to their door, transportation services, handyman services, etc.
Finance Management: Luckily, a lot of banking and bill payment can be done online these days, giving you easy access to your loved one’s finances. You can even set up automatic bill payments to make the process as hands-free as possible.
Coordinating Information: Long-distance caregivers can provide their loved one’s assistance with appointments, paperwork, and other important pieces of information.
Planning for the Future: Often, loved ones may not have the mental capacity to make informed decisions about their future. Questions concerning estate planning, moving into a long-term care facility, or caring for a beloved pet can be decided by a long-distance care provider.
Emotional Support: One important role of a long-distance caregiver is to provide emotional support. While long distances are not always ideal, there are ways to provide the support the senior needs. A good place to start is by calling or doing a video chat.
Getting Started as a Long-Distance Caregiver
Now that we understand a little bit about the role of a long-distance caregiver, there are a lot of details to keep in mind, so it helps to take the process step by step.
Have a family meeting: Hold a family meeting to discuss responsibilities and develop a plan. Keep the senior involved in the process as much as possible. Remember to ask for their input about the quality of care they want.
Establish a primary caregiver: Have a single person who may be responsible for the patient’s well-being. This person should have written permission to receive financial and medical information.
Explore living arrangements: Assess the living arrangements to ensure safety, such as the bathroom, handrails, and other safety equipment.
Plan visits: In-person visits are important. These visits are opportunities for families to see how their loved one is doing. This is also the perfect time to provide additional care or just spend quality time with their loved one.
Set up an emergency plan: When providing care remotely, it’s important to have a plan in place that will allow you to respond to emergencies without delay. Keep a list of emergency contacts available for everyone.
Long-distance caregiving is never going to be the same as in-person care, though with the right planning, it can still be just as good. The key is taking advantage of resources at your disposal and staying organized. You got this.
- AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020 (https://www.aarp.org/ppi/info-2020/caregiving-in-the-united-states.html). Last accessed 12/14/2023.