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