How to Prepare Yourself for Long-Distance Caregiving 

Long distance care

By Renae Perry  

It’s 292 miles from my home to my parents’ home out of state. Roads so traveled that I know them by heart, just as I know where the good bathrooms are and which towns have better food choices between here and there. Nearly one in five of us is caring for aging loved ones, and according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, around 15% of family caregivers live more than an hour away from their care recipient. This represents approximately 5 million caregivers, a number that is expected to grow in the coming years. I found myself joining this club two and a half years ago, traveling that 292 miles on an increasingly regular basis to provide needed care and support.  

Long-distance caregivers are almost twice as likely to report emotional distress as compared to caregivers who live less than one hour away according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. This is understandable as the weight of this emotional and financial strain increases, and as the other demands on caregivers often weigh just as heavily.  

There is hope and help, though! Having a solid plan, knowing the resources available, and using technology can make a difference. It can ease some of the burdens so many long-distance caregivers face and help caregivers experience some of the positive emotions that also come with caring for those who have cared for us. Here are a few tips to help:  

Know and Grow Your Network 

  • Identify who else in the family and in the local community can be eyes and ears for you and can help with caregiving responsibilities. Don’t overlook family friends, faith community members and leaders, or neighbors. Make a spreadsheet and keep it updated with names, roles, and contact information. In a moment of crisis, you might not think of someone who could be of assistance.  
  • Use that local network to identify plumbers, lawn services, or other professionals you may need to call on if the person you are caring for still lives at home.  
  • Know the aging professionals in that local community. Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging connecting you to services for older adults and their families. You can reach them at 1-800-677-1116 or https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx . They will share information on that county’s Area Agency on Aging, a great starting point to identify what’s available in the community and can include things like respite care, Meals on Wheels, minor home repairs and modifications, as well as any other resources that are available.  
  • It can also be a good idea to speak with an Aging Life Care Manager (also known as a Geriatric Care Manager), a paid professional who can coordinate care, and appointments and be a truly helpful partner in managing your loved one’s needs. https://www.aginglifecare.org is a good place to start to see who is available in various communities across the country.  
  • If your loved one is in a long-term care facility, know who the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is for that facility. The ombudsman can be a great resource, advocating for your loved one and any issues they are experiencing. https://theconsumervoice.org/get_help can help you locate the ombudsman for the county you need.  

Make Sure Important Financial, Insurance and Legal Details are Accessible 

  • Make sure you have access to any needed financial or legal information and that you have a good understanding of your loved one’s wishes and needs. You may need to spend some time sorting through mail and other paperwork and putting on your detective hat to uncover what’s there to get a more complete picture.  
  • Recognize that your loved one may be particularly vulnerable to frauds and scams, especially if there is any cognitive decline. Regularly check financial information and review who else is talking to your loved one as well.  
  • Having The Talk – not the talk we think of, but the other talk! Conversations about care and wishes before a crisis can help. The Conversation Project is a great organization with tools to help start, continue and document those important conversations. https://theconversationproject.org/ 

Rely on Technology  

  • When you live far away, everything from online banking to ordering groceries and refilling prescriptions can be managed more easily through technology. Assistive technologies like medication reminders, video doorbells, fall detection devices and tracking apps can help ensure you stay as connected as possible with your loved one and their needs.  
  • Facetime and other video calls can help visually assess your loved one’s well-being and participate in doctor’s appointments or other important meetings. 

Don’t Neglect Self-care 

  • Whenever possible, use the travel time to decompress or engage in healthy self-care practices. Have a favorite podcast? Play it! Soothing music? Let’s hear it! Just don’t play music that’s too relaxing on a long road trip if you are sleepy!  
  • Whatever you do, don’t overlook your own medical and dental appointments. They are non-negotiable! You can’t care for anyone else if your health deteriorates.  
  • Let others help when they offer and know there’s no such thing as perfection. Doing the best you can in the moment is okay. There are lots of emotions that come with this caregiving journey. Be gentle with yourself and how these feelings show up.  

In addition to these tips, The Senior Source’s Caregiver Support Program is here to assist those in Dallas and Collin Counties with care consultations, support groups and ongoing help in navigating this challenging and rewarding journey. You’ve got this!  

About the Author, Renae Perry 

Renae Perry is the Chief Operating Officer at The Senior Source, a non-profit organization serving older adults and family caregivers in the Dallas area for more than 60 years. Renae has worked in various roles over the past twenty-nine years at The Senior Source and has served in her current position for thirteen years. She has extensive experience in non-profit leadership and program development and loves working to support older adults, caregivers and volunteers to ensure the best quality of life possible. She has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Howard Payne University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington and is licensed by the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners. She has served on numerous advisory boards and councils, including the Texas Health Resources Community Advisory Board, the Aging Mind Foundation Advisory Board and the Family Violence Prevention Council, and she has chaired the Dallas Senior Employment Council. She is also an alumnus of the Leadership Dallas class of 2018.  

About The Senior Source 

Since 1961, The Senior Source’s mission has been to enhance the quality of life for older adults in greater Dallas. This nonprofit agency serves as the go-to resource for everything older adults may need including financial guidance, advice on long-term care facilities, or ways to connect with others through volunteerism. The agency assists more than 25,000 seniors and their families per year. Learn more at theseniorsource.org.  


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