Caring at a distance

Family carers do an incredible job: parents or other relatives in need of care are supported, looked after and cared for at home. They still receive too little support and attention. But what many people don’t know is that there is not only local care, many people also take care of relatives with support needs who live further away – in other words, distance caregiving.

Note: “to care” means to look after, to take care of, to worry about.

What is distance caregiving?

Distance caregiving is about a situation where one person takes on the responsibility of caring for another person but is at a geographical distance from them. This occurs when family members or close friends live in different cities or states.

How can distance caregiving work?

Distance caregivers do not so much provide physical help such as washing, cooking or cleaning but rather take over the organisation and coordination of important tasks and many administrative tasks. An example would be when someone cares for a person in need of care who lives in another city or in a nursing home. The carer can make regular phone calls to check on the health of the person in need of care and provide emotional support. And one can take care of organisational matters such as making doctor’s appointments, checking and paying bills, keeping in touch with health insurance, long-term care insurance and care services, taking care of care degrees and benefits, organising medication or even doing other organisational tasks to ensure that the person in need of care gets the support they need.

Even if you do not see the person in need of care every day, possible visits can be used for different kinds of assistance, such as repairs and small jobs on the house or in the flat, doing bulk shopping and taking care of supplies or filling the freezer with pre-cooked food. Discuss organisational matters with the person in need of care or also support the main caregivers by taking over all daily tasks for a weekend.
Modern technologies such as video telephony and telemedicine have expanded the possibilities for Distance Caregiving. Caregivers can stay in regular contact via video calls to provide emotional support and check on the person’s condition. Telemedicine makes it possible to consult medical professionals via videoconference and coordinate medical treatments remotely.

What are the challenges of distance caregiving?

The physical distance can make it difficult to react quickly to unforeseen situations or to provide adequate support. It requires good organisation, communication and cooperation between the people involved to ensure that the person in need of care receives the best possible care.
Regular and also irregular visits entail a significantly increased time and monetary expenditure The travelling times, the visiting times and the time needed to do all other tasks It is a balancing act between family, job and care.

Self-protection is important!

It is important that distance caregivers also practice self-care, as the strain and stress of distance caregiving can be particularly challenging.

Especially the handling of one’s own expectations and demands but also the pressure from outside and the reproaches that may come, can cause feelings of guilt. Caring for a relative means a lot of worries and a great psychological burden. This can have psychological and physical consequences and lead to exhaustion and illness.

Involving other family members, friends or professional support such as care services or voluntary visiting services can help to share the responsibility and reduce the burden. But also offers such as meals on wheels, a home help or support with gardening can lead to relief. And no matter how great the distance to the person in need of care is, it is very important to build up a good local network right from the start, so that in an emergency there is always a contact person nearby who can bridge the time needed to be present as a distance caregiver.

Note: we at Viva Familienservice are happy to support you!

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