Until recently, the distance between father and daughter was not a problem. Ever since her mother had died, Sara would make it a point to meet her dad at a restaurant located somewhere in the middle, or drive to his home with her family for an occasional Sunday or holiday visit.
This changed abruptly when Rick suffered the first of several minor strokes. He could no longer drive, so the regular dinners ended. Sara became more and more concerned about his health and while he always reassured her that he was fine, she continued to feel uneasy. In their phone calls, he would sound a little too subdued, a little less responsive.
Whenever she visited him, she noticed how her once vibrant and energetic father, a man who was the life of the party, suddenly seemed to be moving much slower and had little energy. He didn’t seem that interested in her visiting, saying that he was tired and preferred she make it some other time. Things he once liked to do – like work in the garden or putter around in his workshop – he now avoided. She worried about whether he was taking proper care of himself, and if he would suffer another, and more serious, stroke.
Sara also found herself regularly on the phone with his doctor. She missed several days of work to drive Rick to the doctor, or simply to check up on him, days she could ill afford to lose. She knew there was no way her father would ever agree to live with them or, God forbid, choose to give up the house and move into an assisted living facility – her father, after all, still cherished his independence. She felt like she was in a bind, and didn’t know where to turn.
Sara’s Situation is Hardly Unique.
Rather, it is the life of the long-distance caregiver. She, or he, living an hour or hundreds of miles away, whether the primary caregiver or the child, sibling, relative, or close friend responsible for the health and well-being of an aging or infirmed loved one, faces often difficult and complex challenges.
According to a study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, 15% of the estimated 34 million Americans who provide care to older family members can be considered long-distance caregivers, defined as living an hour or more away from their relative.
Living away from an aging parent can impact on one’s family life, finances, and career, not to mention emotional well being. It often requires long-distance caregivers to miss work to care for their relatives, manage and supervise paid care providers from a distance, and feel left out of decisions made by health care professionals or other family members who live closer.
What Can Be Done
No hard and fast answers will give these long-distance caregivers peace of mind. Each case is different. Yet, here are several things they should consider:
For Sara and others, these recommendations can provide some peace of mind. This, after all, is life as we know it in a world that has both grown smaller and resulted in families living further apart.
Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. We are pleased to provide caregivers that help to restore independence, health and confidence to the elderly.
For more information, please visit our website at www.angelsinhome.com.