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Family Living Focus: Long Distance Caregiver – Coping with emotions

Being a long-distance caregiver has a unique set of problems. There are both sides of the coin. Know that the emotional drain of being too far from our loved one to be of direct help, can be devastating. How can one describe the fear that envelops you when the phone rings? Or the shrill of the bell, that you know and wait to come, which tells of yet another crisis with your loved one? It is something you learn to live with every day. However, you never are ready for that call. We all feel the same emotions, guilt, anger, frustration, and isolation. It is just that they differ as our individual caregiver roles differ.

As long-distance caregiver, you may have to struggle with the guilt of not being there all the time. Or not being able to ensure that proper care was provided on a regular basis. And while you learn to deal with these issues, you may never really be comfortable with it. Many times, you might feel isolated in that you might learn of a change after the fact, and usually after you could have been of any help. That leads to a sense of being a fragmented part of the family. And eventually, it is easy to see how that family member might not offer any advice or help at all. Or if they do offer it, often it is not very practical in the eyes of the primary caregiver because “you aren’t here, how do you know what mom or dad or granny need?” And, in time this fragmentation can and often does lead to anger, with siblings, which is the last thing that should happen. This is a time when families need to bond closer together and share both the good as well as bad.

As primary caregiver, you have had to face just that same thing. You have had to look at your siblings and understand that while they cannot be here, it does not diminish the concern they may have for their parent. In this light, there are a few things that all family members can do for each other to help ensure that proper care is provided to their loved one. As a long-distance caregiver, you have an opportunity to offer a much-needed respite to your sibling. It may be difficult but arrange for regular visits so that the primary caregiver has a break. There is a law now, which allows you to be able to get time off work. It is called the Family Friendly Leave Act and was signed into law by President Clinton. A week or two several times a year will be a wonderful gift to your sibling and allow you to be an active member of the “Care Team”.

The primary caregiver has an obligation as well. You need to keep lines of communication open with those family members away from home. Offer regular updates on our loved one’s condition and include them as much as possible in the decision-making process. Remembering you do not have to carry the whole load and letting other family know their input is needed is essential. And it will go a long way to reducing the fear of a telephone call late in the night.

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Information adapted from article by Catherine Murphy, R.N. in Today’s Caregiver.Com Newsletter, August 25, 2015, Issue #841.

If you would like more information on “Long Distance Caregiving – Coping with Emotions” contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus University of Minnesota at waldn001@umn.edu. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.

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