Long Distance Caregiving: Bridging the Divide
“Ramie, I’m terrified."
One of my longest and dearest friends texted this to me earlier this week.
Friends since junior high, we played sports together and shared the same social groups. We hung out at each other’s homes and knew each other’s parents well.
This is the friend who jumped on an airplane from California to celebrate with me at a book-signing event in our hometown of Zelienople, Pennsylvania. Our friendship is solid — as solid as one can be with so many miles separating the two of us.
Now, in what seems like a flash, we have traveled from being pre-teens to adults now in our 50s. We both are now facing issues surrounding our aging parents — it is hard to believe they were in their 30s when we met. We never talked about taking care of our parents in those days.
Why was my childhood friend so terrified?
“This next stage of life with mom, I don’t even know where to start,” she wrote in that late-night text exchange.
A great deal of her anxiety stems from the fact that she lives 2,500 miles away from her mom. She has her own life going on; a rewarding job; two amazing kids launching into adulthood; a husband with a busy career. How can my friend help her widowed mother get the support she will need as she ages if she cannot be there in person?
Can anyone else relate to this scenario?
Every family is different. Tim’s parents, Leo and Norma, had many of their affairs in order. They did not have memory issues and they still enjoyed each other’s company. We were continually lulled into thinking that maybe everything was just fine with them. Denial is a great defense mechanism, until reality barges in.
Although the changes are generally subtle, there comes a time when we can see our parents transition from a senior citizen to an elderly person. You may notice their personal hygiene is being neglected; their car has dents that were not there before; their house or yard may not be maintained to the level it once was. Maybe they are losing weight, not returning your calls or generally are not motivated.
Leo’s advice to Tim, although unrealistic, still rings in our ears, “Whatever you do Son, don’t ever get old.” If only that could be done.
We have learned that there is support for those who find themselves far away from their aging loved ones. Our friends at C-TAC have pulled together a few articles that might just sing to your distant heart.
Long-Distance Caregiving Guides and Resources
• Handbook for Long-Distance Caregivers - Family Caregiver Alliance
• Caregiving: Tips for long-distance caregivers - Mayo Clinic
• Help for Long-Distance Caregivers - AARP
• Getting Started with Long-Distance Caregiving - National Institute on Aging
• Long-Distance Caregiving - Alzheimer's Association