Last Updated: May 10, 2019
Being a caregiver is one of the most difficult jobs. Caregivers struggling with geographical distances between senior loved ones can make regular communication while caregiving even more stressful. The Family Caregiver Alliance states that nearly 43.5 million Americans are caring for someone older than 50 and unfortunately for many — living in the same state isn’t feasible.
Learn more from Joan Lunden, the official A Place for Mom spokesperson, about how to stay connected with parents and senior loved ones during this time.
Many caregivers today are part of the Sandwich Generation — a group that is simultaneously raising children and caring for their senior parents as well. Juggling multiple responsibilities is always a challenge, but doing so while ensuring care for a senior loved one in a different state adds an extra layer of complexity.
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While I was caregiving, I lived in Connecticut and my mother lived in Sacramento in an adult family home, so we had to be creative and proactive with maintaining a communicative long-distance relationship. It’s important for a daughter and mother to stay connected, especially as health conditions change.
Over the years, I found many ways to lessen our divide using these six simple tips to stay in touch with Mom:
Frequent flyer miles are there for a reason — to be used! Today, many airlines and banks offer credit card or flying options that let you accrue miles over time. If you’re a frequent flier, the miles quickly add up and can make visits a more affordable option.
As often as possible, I tried to send my mom email or mail. Just little items that let her know I was thinking about her. It can be a magazine or newspaper article clipping, a postcard from somewhere you are traveling or a seasonal card. This is an easy way to keep your senior loved one engaged and remembering that someone is thinking of them.
Sometimes it’s hard to notice subtle changes in your parent’s behavior. Keeping a journal during phone conversations and interactions and after visits will help you stay informed and organized on their medications, personality changes and progress.
Use your visits to not only enjoy a fun lunch with Dad or Mom at his or her residence or one of their favorite restaurants but also to visit with other caregivers and doctors. Being aware of changes and health concerns — even some daily observed glimpses into behavior and humor — can help you discern the situation.
Recruit friends, neighbors and relatives who live close to your senior loved one to routinely stop in and visit. Consider setting up a schedule so your parent has a visitor at least once a week. One-on-one interaction is important to keep your loved one socialized and stimulated, not to mention, people in your network can let you know if they observe anything out of the ordinary.
Today’s technology makes staying in touch so much easier. Once Dad or Mom knows how to use the technology (or caregivers can help), daily or weekly chats can help you not only communicate better; they can keep you up-to-date and make you feel like you’re in the same room, despite being hundreds or thousands of miles away.
I have to say that I’ve been lucky that my lifestyle and travel accommodates trips to the West Coast, allowing me to visit my mom on a fairly regular basis. However, I have had stretches of long periods of time where I haven’t been able to see her and it was incredibly hard.
Whether this is the case for your family or not, hopefully these caregiving tips will help you stay connected to your parent or senior loved one and ease some of your caregiver worries.
Joan Lunden is an American author, journalist, television host and A Place for Mom’s spokesperson. She was the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) from 1980-1997 and is the author of eight books, including her latest book on caregiving, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers” — which features words of wisdom from experienced caregivers and experts across the nation, as well as from Lunden herself.
Are you a long-distance caregiver who has any more caregiving tips that you’d like to add to this list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.