Long-Distance Caregiving Tips

If you’re caring for a loved one from a distance, you’re not alone.

Approximately 7 million adults are long-distance caregivers, mostly caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away. Here are some quick tips to get you started.

Talk About Care Before You Need It

Start the caregiving process with a relative or friend before something comes up or a situation arises. Ask a few questions to get the conversation started -

  1. How do you envision your care to be?
  2. What type of care would you like to receive?
  3. Is your personal business 'caught up' or in order? Like advance directives, health care and financial power of attorney, wills and so on?

Stay In Touch

  1. Keep a regular schedule to check in with your loved one and monitor their progress.
  2. Get help from people in the community, a next door neighbor, an old friend, the doctor, etc. Call and let them know what is going on and make sure they know how to reach you.
  3. At some point you will need to visit, so investigate travel options well in advance.
  4. Keep your car well-maintained and have a valid driver's license, auto insurance and/or a valid passport (if you need to travel internationally).
  5. If something has changed in your loved one’s manner or health, consider contacting a third party (i.e. doctor, social worker, geriatric care manager) to set up an assessment. The assessment helps generate a general plan for long-term care. The plan might be updated or modified to fit your loved one’s needs.
  6. When a plan is established, schedule regular conference calls with health and general care providers.
  7. Curious about different types of care and living options? Visit our Senior Living and Hospice sections about selecting a care facility.

Keep Detailed Records

  1. Start a long-distance caregiving binder, folder, notebook – whichever works best for you.
  2. Keep track of important documents, conversations, info on health conditions, medications, advance directives, insurance bills and receipts, etc.

Find Resources

  1. Establish a network of contacts in your area and your relative’s.
  2. Certain professionals (social workers, geriatric care managers, doctors, home health aides, etc.) in the area where you live might be able to help you navigate the system in your relative’s area.

    These professionals often offer consultations on long-distance caregiving and they might also know helpful contacts in that location.

  3. Other resources include the local department on aging in your relative's community, volunteer programs, adult day care centers, doctors, pharmacists, neighbors, care providers, social workers and geriatric care managers.

WHN TIP: Contact List

Once you’ve found your main contacts, list their name, number, email and address. Keep copies of this list in your care binder and at your office and home. Have a cell phone? List these numbers in your cell in case of an emergency.

Caregiving Is Like a Second Job

  1. Remember to ask for help
  2. Establish a caregiving team to help you.
  3. Get in touch with friends and family members as well as important professionals (social workers, geriatric care managers, doctors and so on).
  4. Remember to take care of yourself and your needs.

Additional Resources

  1. Eldercare Locator
    Eldercare Locator links seniors, families, caregivers and professionals with state and local area agencies on aging. Established in 1991, Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging, in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Association of State Units on Aging.

  2. So Far Away: Twenty Questions for Long-Distance Caregiving
    A detailed guide to long-distance caregiving and related issues. Also offers a detailed list of resources available to caregivers. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of NIH, leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life.
  3. AARP: Caregiving
    A guide to caregiving and related issues. With over 35 million members, AARP is the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people age 50 and over in the United States.
  4. National Family Caregiving Association
    The National Family Caregivers Association educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 50 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age.
  5. Interested in more info? Visit Senior Living, Hospice, Hospital and Doctor Visit.

    5/2009