The holiday season is a time for family, but for long-distance caregivers, it can often be a time of stress and isolation. If you're providing care for a loved one from afar, here are some tips to help you through this difficult time of year.
How to Provide Care from a Distance
For many people, the holidays mean long-distance caregiving. If you have a loved one who lives far away, or you need to travel away from the loved one in your care during this season, here are a few tips to help you stay connected and provide the best possible care from a distance.
Set realistic expectations
If you’re new to caregiving, recognize that this holiday season is going to be different than others, and that's okay. Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself to make everything perfect. Focus on what's most important—spending time with your loved ones and creating cherished memories.
When caring from a distance, it can be harder to assess how your loved one is doing. It’s also hard to find the time when we’re traveling or busy to touch base.
Just because you're not in the same physical space doesn't mean you can't feel close to one another. Schedule regular check-ins via phone or video call, exchange photos and stories, and make sure you're still included in important decision-making regarding your loved one's care. If possible, plan a visit—even if it's just for a weekend or an overnight stay.
To prevent a long window of time from passing unexpectedly, schedule regular check-ins and plan around them where possible. Whether you're catching up on the phone or video chatting, it's important to touch base regularly to get a good feel for how your loved one is doing.
Use assistive technology
Take advantage of assistive technology to stay connected. There are a number of apps and online tools that can help you share important information and coordinate care with other family members or professional caregivers throughout the season.
Ask friends and family for help
With distance between you, it's more important than ever to be organized and have a plan in place. Before the holidays get underway, touch base with your loved one's care team and review their care plan. Make sure you know what needs to be done and when, so you can be as prepared as possible. If possible, try to delegate tasks to other family members or friends who can lend a hand.
At the very least, create a support network of local friends and family members who can check in on your loved one when you can't. Whether it’s a neighbor with a spare key or a friend who lives nearby, it’s important to have another person who can get to your loved one when needed (see the next tip).
Plan ahead for potential emergencies.
It's always good to have a backup plan in case of an emergency. To decide what to prepare for, consider your loved one’s ailment and living conditions together and walk through a few scenarios.
For example, if your loved one gets stuck in bed, in the shower, or on the toilet, how will they let someone know? Or if they fall in the backyard, is there a neighbor that can help? If so, how will they get a hold of that neighbor, and how will that neighbor get into the house? What should your loved one do if the power goes out? Etc.
If nothing else, is there someone (like a friend, family member, or a nurse) who can pop by when needed? Flowing through scenarios and taking steps to prevent disaster is an important part of emergency preparedness.
Finally, don't forget about your own self-care.
Caring for a loved one from afar can be taxing on your body and mind. Be sure to schedule regular breaks for yourself, even if it's just half an hour to take a walk or read your favorite book. And don't forget to schedule check-ups with your own doctor too! It's also important to find an emotional outlet—a support group for caregivers, therapy, or even just talking with a trusted friend about what you're going through. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one.
Closing Thoughts: Long-Distance Caregiving during the Holidays
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, but for long-distance caregivers, it can be anything but joyful. If you're providing care for a loved one from afar this year, remember to set realistic expectations, make a plan, stay connected, and take care of yourself—physically and emotionally. Caring for a loved one is hard enough—caring for them from afar can seem impossible at times. But by following these tips, you can make it through this holiday season—and any other challenges that come your way in the future.
Join our Facebook Group
If you’re looking for a community of caregivers that truly understands what you’re going through. A group you can turn to when you have questions, frustrations, or need advice? Join our California Family Caregivers Facebook group today.
Our California Family Caregivers Facebook group is a safe space for caregivers across different communities in California to speak about their caregiving journey and interact with one another. Join us today.