"As many as 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers, according to the National Institute on Aging."
Every three weeks, Pam McNamara boards a plane and travels to Omaha to visit her parents. Her mom, who suffers from advanced dementia and is confined to a wheelchair, now requires near-constant care. McNamara helps manage her care from afar.
"My biggest stress is knowing that I can't see my mom on a regular basis," says McNamara in a new audio interview on besmartbewell.com. "It's hard to know that she's having a bad day and I can't be there to help her myself."
Long-distance caregivers like McNamara face distinct challenges. Many worry they aren't doing enough for their loved one. At besmartbewell.com, McNamara and AARP's caregiving expert Amy Goyer share insights into meeting the challenges of long-distance caregiving.
Who are long-distance caregivers
McNamara's caregiving experience is uniquely personal, but her circumstances are common. As many as 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers, according to the National Institute on Aging. And you don't have to live across the country to be a "long-distance" caregiver. Anyone who lives an hour or more from the person they are caring for is considered a long-distance caregiver.
Long-distance caregiving can take many forms. Some caregivers manage finances and bills; some coordinate in-home care or communicate with a nursing home about day-to-day care; some simply offer moral support and occasional relief for a local relative who is providing hands-on care.
How do long-distance caregivers begin
To manage care from afar, long-distance caregivers need to get organized and get educated, AARP's Goyer says.
"You want to make sure you know who all their doctors are. You want to get the names and phone numbers of any neighbors. Find out where all the hospitals are in the area. Really educate yourself," she says in the audio interview. "Be sure and get copies of their advance directives. If they don't have advance directives, get that done so that you know what their wishes are."
Next, understand long-distance caregiving is not a one-person job. Long-distance caregivers should assemble a team that includes at least one set of local eyes and ears, McNamara says in her audio story.
"Whether that is figuring out cousins in your hometown, or friends of the family or hiring people, you are going to need additional support," she advises.
McNamara and Goyer provide additional tips on using technology, keeping family accord and making the most of in-person visits. Listen to McNamara's story and hear Goyer's advice.
besmartbewell.com/caregiving/long-distance-caregiving provides practical information about long-distance caregiving. The website includes:
At the site, visitors can also sign up for the bimonthly Spotlight Newsletter and biweekly News Alerts for more in-depth articles and breaking news on caregiving and other important health topics.
Listen to McNamara's story and lessons learned - www.besmartbewell.com/caregiving/long-distance-caregiving.htm
Listen to Goyer's advice - www.besmartbewell.com/caregiving/long-distance-caregiving.htm
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