The Effect Of Caregiving From A Distance
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s we always think about the effect it has on the person or the spouse or other family members living close by. But how often do we think about how it affects the caregivers who live a distance away? We are not caregivers in the traditional sense but we are still caregivers who are involved.
Long-distance caregiving is hard
Caregiving from a distance is hard. You want to help. You try to help. You need to help. You do what you can, but you always question if it is enough. The stress from the distance is immense. Why?
Perhaps because you can’t see what the needs are. Perhaps it's because you’re relying on what you’re hearing and you might be selectively hearing what you want to. Perhaps it's because, concurrent to what your loved one is going through, you have your own partner and kids with life events. Perhaps you have your spouse’s family with issues too. You may still be working full-time. How much time can you reasonably take away from your job to assist? There are so many factors that impact on the stress felt when you don't live where the person with Alzheimer’s lives.
For almost 2 years, my dad was the focus of most of the conversation between my husband and I. What could we do to help or what could we do differently? When can we travel to the city where Dad and Mom live? What calls need to be made to connect Dad and Mom to community services? What are we missing in the lives of our own kids while we stress over all the things that affect Dad? Where is the balance of attention we need between Dad, Mom, and our kids? Then there are the differences of opinion between your spouse and you over how things are viewed and what needs to be done as well. Then there’s this: What needs to be coordinated with other family members to help with Dad and Mom? In my case, the amount of texting, emailing, and phone calls between my brothers and I, and then Mom was extraordinarily massive.
Coping with long-distance caregiving
It’s mind-boggling! Caregiving from a distance consumes your life. Try as you might to not let it happen, your personal life and your relationships go on hold. It’s very easy to say “don’t let it get to you” or “just let it go” or “go for some supportive counseling”. Much easier said than done. You use the strategies that have worked for you in the past to cope but often that’s not enough. This situation is new and huge! Counseling is a great idea but who has time in all of this to go for counseling? How do you fit that in, let alone the cost?
My own tips from experience
I really wish I had a great answer for you to all those questions and the best way to deal with them. From my experience, all I can say is this:
- Look at what you’ve been able to do to help and ‘be there’ for the person with Alzheimer’s even if it’s from a distance. Write it down, read it often, update it, and then read it again.
- Remind yourself that you stayed involved, that you were there for your loved ones because there are people who would just throw in the towel and walk away; you didn’t.
- Realize, you can’t fix everything. That’s the hardest part.
- Sometimes your spouse and kids may need you more.
- In the midst of all the turmoil, keep talking to your spouse and kids so they know you will be back and involved with them as soon as you can. Remind them that you love them.
Finally, make peace with yourself that you have done the best you can given the circumstances. And try your best to breathe.
Are you feeling burnt out?