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Long Distance Caregiving: Q&A

Your mom is in Chapel Hill or Durham and you live in another state. What can you do when you are so far away?

This series focuses on issues that are unique to long-distance caregiving. You will also find other information that is important to know whether you live next door or across the country.  The series is a gateway to ideas and resources that can help make long-distance caregiving more manageable and satisfying.

But what is long-distance caregiving? It can be helping Aunt Lilly sort through her medical bills or thinking about how to make the most of a weekend visit with Mom. It can include checking the references of an aide who’s been hired to help your grandfather or trying to take the pressure off your sister who lives in the same town as both your aging parents and her aging in-laws.

It often refers to caregiving for aging parents, but in fact, this series offers tips you can use no matter who you are caring for—an older relative, family friend, or neighbor.  The questions and answer format provides ideas, suggestions, and observations from people with knowledge or experience in long-distance caregiving. Your situation might call for adaptations of these or even completely different solutions.

We hope these questions and answers stimulate helpful problem solving, but we understand you will mold your own best answers.  A number of resources are mentioned throughout this series of questions.  All of them are included at the end.

  1. What does a long-distance caregiver do?
  2. How will I know if help is needed?  My loved one sounds fine on the phone.
  3. What can I really do from far away?
  4. How can my family decide who does what?
  5. How do I know my strengths and set limits?
  6. What does a geriatric care manager do?
  7. Is organizing paperwork a good way to be helpful?
  8. What information should a caregiver keep track of?
  9. My parents are in their 70s.  Is now the time to talk about their future healthcare preferences?
  10. How can I find information about financial assistance for my parents?
  11. We’re going to spend our vacation with my mom to see how we can make her house safer.  How can we make the best use of our time?
  12. How can I keep up with my mom’s medical care?
  13. How do I evaluate health information online?
  14. I’m going with my dad on his medical appointment.  How can I make the most of this visit with his doctor?
  15. How can I be sure my father’s caregiver isn’t mistreating him or taking his things?
  16. What are the signs of self-neglect?
  17. What are the signs of elder abuse?
  18. How can I lighten the load for my mother?
  19. Should I encourage my parents to get more help?
  20. How can I help my folks decide if it’s time for them to move?
  21. How do we find a nursing home?
  22. What happens if my mother gets too sick to stay at home?
  23. What if Mom only has a few months to live?
  24. Why do I feel so frustrated and guilty being so far away?
  25. What can I do to take care of myself?
  26. It’s time for me to become more involved in my mom’s life.   What are the most important points to remember as I begin?

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the National Institute on Aging for this valuable content.

Within Acorn’s service area of Chapel Hill, Durham and surrounding areas in North Carolina (Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Morrisville, Cary, and Apex) the following resources may be especially helpful:

  • Orange County Department on Aging, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, (919) 968-2070
  • Durham Center for Senior Life, 406 Rigsbee Avenue – Suite 202, Durham, North Carolina   27701, (919) 688-8247
  • Chatham County Council on Aging, 365 North Carolina 87, Pittsboro, North Carolina   27312, (919) 542-4512
  • Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, 4307 Emperor Boulevard
- Suite 110, Durham, NC 27703, 919-558-2711
  • Resources for Seniors (Wake County), 1110 Navaho Dr.  – Suite 400, Raleigh, NC 27609, 919-872-7933