As we discussed in a previous post, most modern-day families are decidedly smaller and more spread-out geographically than those of generations past. This has lead to an estimated 7 million long-distance caregivers in the U.S. Luckily, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a handy guide (which you can download for free) which discusses exactly what it means to be a long-distance caregiver, and the difficulties many of these people face in providing several years worth of care to loved ones from a distance.
Below are some pointers from the NIH to help you get a hold on what exactly your role is as a long-distance caregiver:
- You don’t need to live across the country to be considered a long-distance caregiver. The NIH considers long-distance caregivers as those who “live an hour or more away from a person who needs care.”
- Care comes in many forms, including: helping out financially, money management, arranging for in-home care, providing respite care for a direct caregiver, creating a plan in case of an emergency, acting as an information coordinator, and helping aging parents or loved ones understand their situation and needs.
- It’s an ever-demanding role that lasts many years. The NIH notes that long-distance caregivers need to be aware that they are often a role that will last many years, and they should expect their duties to increase over time. For example, what starts out as an occasional phone call to share family news can eventually turn into routine calls about managing bills, estate planning, talking to doctors and professional health care providers, etc. In some cases, long-distance caregivers take extended periods of time off work to move in with their loved one, providing direct care and helping with day-to-day responsibilities, such as moving their parents into a nursing facility.
- Anyone can be a long-distance caregiver. Gender, income, age, social status, and employment don’t prevent people from becoming long-distance caregivers. AndÂ the face of caregiving is changing. “In the past, caregivers have been primarily working women in mid-life with other family responsibilities,” according to the NIH. Now, it’s more common for men to get involved in the process as well. Some surveys even show that upwards of 40 percent of caregivers are now men.
For more information on long-distance caregiving from the NIH, check out more from their e-publication, “So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving.”
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