Caring for loved ones, whether it be due to age or medical conditions, is a hard job. There is no doubt that it can be rewarding, that it is a job you want to do or that it is a job you wouldn’t even consider not doing. But can it be hard? Of course.

Caring for loved ones when you are not located close to them - that can be even more challenging.


Facing the challenge


Caring for others from afar is known as many things, from remote caregiving to long distance caring, but essentially if it takes you an hour or more to travel from where you live to the older person you want to look after, then you can consider yourself a long-distance caregiver1.

Such care requirements can be challenging in a number of ways, and whilst caring for others can feel quite isolating, the first hurdle can be realising that you’re not alone. It is estimated that approximately 6.5 million carers in the UK are unpaid, with up to 3 million balancing other work or responsibilities alongside caregiving2.

Reach out to others in your position - there are face-to-face support groups, Facebook communities, online forums and other support elements that can provide a listening ear or helpful ideas. With 3 in 5 people being a carer at some point in their lives3, you will likely find that someone you already know has some hands-on experience. Don’t be shy in asking for their support!


Image of two people outside, one in a wheelchair


Throughout your time as a caregiver, be kind to yourself. You may not always embrace the situation. It is ok to mourn for elements of your life you feel you have had to put to the side for now. It is ok to sometimes resent the burden you carry. It is ok to feel frustration and confusion, both at the task at hand, as well as the change in roles you may experience when caring for parents or partners. None of these emotions change the way others will view you and certainly shouldn’t change how you feel about yourself. They are simply part and parcel. That being said, if you feel overwhelmed by these emotions, it may be healthy to speak to your GP or a dedicated support network.


Practical solutions


Image of a box being handed over, a delivery


Caring for someone from afar means that often you cannot ‘do the doing’ yourself. However, there are many ways you can provide support to make the life of your loved ones and those closer to hand easier.

We live in a digital age, where an online transaction miraculously results in physical goods. Take advantage of this and use the internet to your benefit:

  • Book online food deliveries at 7-10 day intervals, so that you and your loved one can rest easy knowing that they will always have food, toiletries and household supplies to keep them going.
  • Amazon and other online marketplaces are perfect for picking up the items such as bandages, lightbulbs, compression socks, weekly pill caddies, a llama door stop… all the essentials!
  • Books can be surprisingly heavy for many. Kindle’s are lightweight and store hundreds of books. Check out online deals for second-hand Kindles to be kind to your wallet!
  • Many pharmacies now deliver prescriptions, so you never have to worry about a missed dose.

As well as providing physical items to improve quality of life, make sure you connect with the other people in your loved one’s support circle. This may be other relatives, neighbours and friends. Ensure others are checking in, if possible, and make sure everyone knows the role they’re playing - who is picking up groceries if deliveries aren’t possible, who can help give the house a quick clean, who has the connection within any professional carers? Whilst you may not be able to carry out these tasks yourself, you can help the rest of the support circle by organising what you can to make their roles easier, and by supporting them emotionally too.


Providing emotional support


For many living with a medical condition, isolation is a big factor in their lives. Making time to connect is key and, thankfully, it is easier and more engaging than ever. Once more, we have technology to thank here!

Quick text messages can brighten someone’s day, just checking in and letting them know you’re thinking of them. Funny pictures and silly GIFs can take the focus off of their condition and provide a much needed giggle.


Image of a video call, the man on the computer smiling


FaceTime, WhatsApp video, Zoom meetings - there are almost endless options if your loved ones are tech-savvy. Be creative with video calling. Whilst a good old face-to-face chinwag is lovely, the Coronavirus outbreak demonstrated just how flexible this medium is. From group quiz nights to cocktail evenings, from charade sessions to Pictionary, the options are almost endless, so get chatting - don’t forget to include other people in your loved ones social circle to build relationships and move away from just being caregivers.

Watching a favourite TV programme at the same time is a really simple way to engage with your loved ones. This works for those who are tech-savvy (Netflix party!) to those who class themselves as technophobes (simply switch the TV on and give them a call!). Gogglebox has made such a mark due to its embodiment of one of our key desires - to share opinions and enjoy entertainment with others - so, why not create your own TV party?


Keeping them safe


A crucial element of care is often ensuring your loved ones safety. This may be making sure that, if they are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, others know where they live if they wander or become confused. It may be guaranteeing that if they have a medical emergency, paramedics know of their underlying condition and medications. It could simply be wanting paramedics to know your contact details, so that you’re informed and updated.

You may think that caring from afar means you can’t guarantee this, but there is actually a lot you can do. Firstly, it can be helpful to invest in an alarm system, such as that offered by Alertacall, who ensure your loved one is safe each and every day. You can also install a key safe outside of their home, to make sure that others can access their property quickly and securely in the case of an emergency.

Lastly, but so importantly, you can help them become a MedicAlert member. This will provide you with the peace of mind that they will be safe both in and out of the home.

If an emergency were to happen, their medical ID jewellery will alert those caring for them to the most vital medical information. Via our 24/7 emergency helpline, paramedics and healthcare professionals can then access your loved ones full medical record and emergency contact details (including yours!).

Your loved one can nominate you to help manage their record, via our Advocacy Function, providing you with the peace of mind that you can support them in setting up and maintaining their medical information.

If you would like to help a loved one become a MedicAlert member, click below or call us on 01908 951045.


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References to other websites herein are done so with sincerity and an open appreciation for their content.
References:

1 Age Action Alliance: How To Care From Afar
2 NICE: Unpaid carers need more support to cope with financial and emotional stress
3 Carers UK: Facts about carers 2019

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