Caregiving Across The Miles:
The Plus Side of Long Distance Caregiving
(Story of a Caregiver)

By Peg Crandall, MA, CPC

 

My work required frequent travel and my conscience bothered me because I could not spend more time with my best friend, June, while she battled a life-threatening disease.  As her condition worsened, I felt very guilty about not being able to be at her bedside.

I talked with my therapist about my feelings.  She explained that many seriously ill patients find their favorite caregiver relationships to be with those who stay in touch by phone or electronic messaging.  There is sound reasoning behind that point!

When people visit loved ones or acquaintances facing health challenges, they often treat him or her as fragile beings that need to be handled with kid gloves.  The kid glove approach may negatively affect the one who is experiencing these challenges, making them feel nothing more than a medical problem.

Don’t misread that statement.  After all, visitations can be extremely uplifting for both involved.  But I’m referring to distance barriers and the impact of seeing your friend or family member once in a while, when suddenly you realize the seriousness of the situation.

When calls replace in-person visits, normal conversations take place because the caregiver does not see her friend’s deteriorating physical appearance.  That is a plus.  It prevents tension that might otherwise surface.  In retrospect, I must admit that when I was out of town, I did not treat my friend, June, differently when we talked on the phone.  However, when I saw her in pain and withering away, I was very uncomfortable.  Seeing someone looking gaunt and grim makes it difficult to sit down and say, “Wow!  What a day I’ve had!  Let me tell you…”

I realized there were some other advantages to being apart.  If I had been with her, she would have tried to stay awake and talk, even when she needed to rest.  Another plus for both of us was the fun we had when I called.  We would just chat for a few minutes and then I surprised her by playing her favorite songs or having a mutual friend say hello.   

Geographic separation from a loved one who is suffering with pain may be excruciating for caregivers; but staying in touch by phone, just hearing that person’s voice, brings relief.  So “Reach out and touch someone.”  (AT&T slogan) It feels good.  It is good. 

Tips for Long Distance Caregivers:
What you can do to ease the pain of separation.

  • Let your loved one know you are still there for him or her.

  • Call frequently.  Hold normal conversations.  Do not focus on the disease. Do talk about what is happening with friends and family.

  • Play their favorite music over the phone.

  • Share sources of calmness that may ease their path.

  • Read aloud – poetry or stories they would enjoy.

  • E-mail jokes, funny stories, pieces of relevant information, inspirational messages.

  • Arrange an electronic chat room with additional friends communicating.

  • Mail surprise packages – musical CDs, movies, books, crossword puzzles, easy to handle crafts.

  • Send a bouquet of balloons.  Have a clown deliver the gift.

  • Share fun memories the two of you have enjoyed together

Excerpt from Caregivers: Angels without Wings© by Peg Crandall

 

Peg Crandall is an author, Caregiver Coach, Support Group Facilitator and Speaker. You can reach Peg at CoachPeg@RedesignYourLifeNow.net

 

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