Caregiving for a Parent in Another City

Long-distance, long-term care

Q: How can I be an effective caregiver from far away? I don't feel comfortable just jumping in.
-- Ed W., San Diego, California

A: If you are a long-distance caregiver, you aren't alone. Approximately seven million adults are long-distance care givers, mostly caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away. Long-distance caregiving takes many forms -- from helping manage the money to arranging for in-home care; from providing respite care to give the primary caregiver a break to helping a parent move to a new home or facility.

Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of home health aides, insurance benefits, and durable medical equipment. Some long-distance caregivers help a parent pay for care, while others step in to manage finances.

Caregiving is often a long-term task. What might start out as an occasional social phone call to share family news can eventually turn into regular phone calls about managing health insurance claims, getting medical information, and arranging for respite services (help for the caregiver). What begins as a monthly trip to check on Mom may turn into a larger project to move her to a nursing facility close to your home.

Caregiving isn't easy for anyone, not for the caregiver and not for the care recipient. From a distance, it may be especially hard to feel that what you are doing is enough, or that what you are doing is important. It usually is.