Caring from a distance
Monday 26th January
It’s true that the population is enjoying longer, more fulfilled lives than previous generations. Many will go on to enjoy good health in their later years, however some may find that they will require more support and assistance as they get older.
Understandably, many older people want to remain independent in surroundings which are familiar and homely. However, sometimes this can cause practical difficulties and worry for family members who are providing help and support. Families are more dispersed than they ever have been; with many moving away to find work or more affordable housing opportunities.
Caring for a relative is a huge undertaking and living close by can be just as difficult as being far away. Travelling frequent short distances can be stressful for carers. Those who combine paid work with looking after relatives face challenges of time whereas those who live some distance away may feel removed from the situation and unable to provide the support which is expected of them. Trying to arrange care for someone living in another part of the country also means trying to navigate the health and social care services which are available in that area.
Whether its work commitments or the miles between you, or both that are the issue, caring at a distance can cause emotional, financial and physical pressures for families.
Practical ways to help
Talk about it: this can be difficult but having conversations with elderly relatives early on can ease the pressure of some of the decisions which you may have to make in the future.
Technology can help: many of us rely on the internet and by helping older relatives to access and understand the web you can help to combat their feelings of isolation.
Help out, if you can: even if you’re not the primary carer you can offer support by means of regular phone calls and offering to give other family members a break.
Request a carer’s assessment: you are entitled to a carer’s assessment even if you live in a different local authority and will be paying for additional services yourself. This is your chance to discuss any help you may need whilst caring for your relative.
Construct a plan in case of an emergency: if there was an emergency and you weren’t there to help, having a plan written down can ease some of the worry.
Make sure the home environment is safe: when you visit check for potential risks at home. Check lighting provision and for trip hazards and consider whether any modifications, like grab rails could help with your relative’s mobility and independence.