From A Distance: The Challenge of Caregiving When You Are Not There

All lives start to sound like a soap opera as you tell the story, and mine has been no exception.

For many of my father’s final years, I stepped into the caregiver role, like so many of us. My mum had not been in the picture for over 30 years, so it was quite the surprise to find myself stepping back into the role for her last summer. The difference this time was a physical distance of 3000 miles of ocean that separates us.

Welcome to long distance care-giving.

Missing this time was the shock of playing parent to a parent. Definitely something to be said for having experience in this field.

elderly parent care
Photo credit: Jonel Hanopol

For those of you who are entering into caring for your parents for the first time, all of your questions, concerns, and reservations about helping are very normal. Our society does little or prepare us for this role. Feeling uncomfortable is the norm until you settle into the role.

Or not.

One of the more profound aspects about the care of aging parents is the effect on the family members. Family responds in one of two ways. Either they step up and help, or they’ve got to be somewhere and they’ll get back with you.

So for those of us who step up, working from a distance is challenging because of limited resources and information but please remember, whatever you can do is the best you can do. There is no wrong way of helping and there are ways to organize your efforts.

For the absent family who contribute nothing but criticism of everyone else’s contributions, they are cordially invited to stuff their ideas in their pipes and smoke them. Care-giving is tough enough without the individual critiques of your actions. Invite them to join in the work. Like so much of these situations, letting go of toxic things is essential. Move past them and focus on your loved one. You’ll learn as you go. Honest.

The Internet can also be your friend. Here are a few useful resources that can help you manage your situation:

Handbook For Long-Distance Caregivers

Tips For Long-Distance Care-giving

20 Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Care-giving

As mentioned before, it all boils down to just doing your best with what you have. Be willing to be creative and work with different ideas.


Connect with other caregivers and share information. Avoid the pity parties though. Seek out and find those who are willing to share insights and are not for just looking for willing shoulders to cry upon. They’ll wear you out and you’ve got work to do.

You can do it!

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.”
— Emory Austin