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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Caring From a Distance


May 24, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

Caring From a Distance Anne Lofquist’s mother, a 93-year-old widow, lives on her own in London, Ontario. She has advanced dementia and receives almost round-the-clock care from six care providers hired by the family. Lofquist lives in Florida and is only able to visit her mother once or twice a year. “She’s a very happy person,” says Lofquist. “I love to see her, and love answering her questions over and over again. I understand where she’s coming from.”

Lofquist’s sister Catherine Gudewill lives in B.C. Her other sister Martha Powell, lives near London and sees to their mother’s day-to-day needs. The sisters, like so many families, are negotiating the challenge of caregiving from a distance.

Lofquist calls or Facetimes her mother at least once a week. She also talks to her caregivers on a regular basis. “We all know her ‘nannies’ and love them,” she says. “And we’ve always made sure that any decision-making we have to do, we do together.” For example, a couple of years ago they considered moving their mother to a long-term care home. Powell set up appointments for them to visit several facilities and the three sisters went together. In the end, they decided to support their mother to stay in her own apartment.

While Lofquist worries from a distance, Powell deals with the pressure of day-to-day caring, balancing it with a full-time career. “When you’re the one on the spot, you have to be the point person for everything,” she says. “I have to keep my sisters informed and part of the decision-making. I’m also the point person for the caregivers, and I manage a lot of the financial affairs.”

She appreciates her sisters’ support but says the closest person has to be the primary caregiver. “They have to trust me because I’m the one who knows the day-to-day ins and outs,” she says.
Lofquist’s best advice for caregiving at a distance? “Keep in touch, give the love, and stay calm.”
Other tips for long-distance caregiving:
  • Develop an agreed-upon plan of care. Schedule family meetings to discuss goals, air feelings, and divide up duties.
  • Compile notes, contact numbers, account numbers and other critical information.
  • Pay attention to changes in behaviour when you’re visiting – gradual changes may be harder for the primary caregiver to notice.
  • Offer to give the primary caregiver some time off

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