By Audrey Adelson
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there are 5 to 7 million long- distance-caregivers in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative – a number that is expected to double over the next 15 years. They live on average 480 miles from the people for whom they care and spend an average of four hours in travel time per visit.
Emory employees are not an exception to this as many have found themselves either currently in the role of being a long distance caregiver or expect to be one in the next 1-3 years. Often, individuals that care for someone from a distance do not even identify themselves as caregivers, when in fact, they are. According to the Mayo Clinic, a long distance caregiver can be defined as:
Provide emotional support to a primary caregiver
Coordinate services for a loved one, such as arranging for household help or in-home care or arranging a
move to a nursing facility
Manage a loved one's medical bills or records
The individual might also set aside time for occasional personal visits.
Stressors that effect long distance caregivers include:
Guilt and resentment over not being able to be with their parent or loved one and feeling as if they should
be able to do more.
Complications of making care arrangements from another location and not being familiar with the
resources, having difficulty reaching medical and care staff, and perhaps having to deal with different time
zones while coordinating care.
Visits can be very traumatic in that they have not seen the daily decline in health of their loved one.
Often long distance caregivers obtain important information from their elder or second hand from family
members who have spoken with a member of their loved one’s treatment team. This makes it difficult to
get a clear understanding of what is really going on.
Trusting someone else to provide the day to day care to their parent or loved one.
Anxiety over trying to meet all of their own work-life responsibilities and rushing around to make care
arrangements from a distance.
Anger and fear about the situation and the impending grief they feel when they lose their parent.
Pressure from other relatives who do not understand why they cannot drop everything to be with their
parent or relative at this time.
When a person finds oneself in the role of being a long distance caregiver, it is helpful to know that there are strategies and resources available to help. Below are some tips to help you get started:
In addition to the Emory WorkLife Resource Center, here are some additional resources for long distance caregivers:
So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers about Long-Distance Caregiving
National Institute on Aging
Family Caregiver Alliance - National Center on Caregiving