Heath and Aging

So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving

Support for Caregivers

Why do I feel so frustrated and guilty? I didn't realize that not being nearby every day would be so stressful.

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You might think that being far away gives you some immunity from feeling overwhelmed by what is happening to your parent, but long-distance caregivers report otherwise. Caregiving, especially from a distance, is likely to bring out many different emotions, both positive and negative. Feeling frustrated and angry with everyone, from your parent to the doctors, are common experiences. It can be hard to acknowledge that you feel this way, but try not to criticize yourself even more. Anger could be a sign that you are overwhelmed or that you are trying to do too much. If you can, give yourself a break: take a walk, talk with your friends, get some sleep—try to do something for yourself.

Although you may not feel as physically exhausted and drained as the primary, hands-on caregiver, you may still be worried and anxious. And you might feel guilty about almost everything—about not being closer, not doing enough, not having enough time with your parent, and perhaps even feeling jealous of those who do. Many long-distance caregivers also find that worry about being able to afford to take time off from work, being away from family, or the cost of travel increases these frustrations. Remember that you are doing the best you can given the circumstances and that you can only do what you can do. It may help to know that these are feelings shared by many other long-distance caregivers—you are not alone in this.

If you are like most long-distance caregivers, you already have many people who rely on you: your spouse, children, perhaps even grandchildren, as well as friends, coworkers, and colleagues. Adding one more "to do" to your list may seem impossible.

As one caregiver noted, "When I was growing up, my mother and I weren't very close. As an adult, I ended up across the country. When Mom got sick, my sister took on most of the caregiving. Because I'm hours away, I couldn't be at Mom's bedside regularly, but I did call her more often. I worked it out with my sister, so I took care of handling Mom's monthly bills. I did visit several times and always encouraged my sister to take a break from caregiving while I was there. Now that Mom's gone, I'm dealing with the estate, closing out accounts, and deciding what to do with the house. We all do what we can.

What can I do to take care of myself?

Taking care of yourself might seem like the last thing you should be thinking about, but you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.

You might find some consolation or comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Consider joining a caregiver support group, either in your own community or online. Meeting other caregivers can relieve your sense of isolation and will give you a chance to exchange stories and ideas. Support groups can be a great resource and a way to learn caregiving tips and techniques that work—even from afar. Some people find the camaraderie and companionship helpful. Perhaps an online support group is more your style. By focusing on what you have been able to contribute, you may be able to free yourself from some of the worry. The Eldercare Locator may be able to help you find a local group.

Eldercare Locator

The Eldercare Locator, a service of the Administration on Aging, works through local and state Area Agencies on Aging. You can contact the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116 toll-free. They might have information about nutrition programs, preventive health services, elder rights, caregiver training, and support services for older people and their caregivers that are available in your area.

 

Publication Date: June 2011
Page Last Updated: March 24, 2014