When my aging parents became ill and eventually passed away, I was living out of state with a small child and was unable to help with their care or needs. My three older sisters were able to help Mom and Dad because: a) they wanted to and because, b) they all lived nearby and were able to share the burden with some careful coordination. This, after all, is what a family does.
But, how do you help someone from a distance? Carole King, an American songwriter, recorded in her 1971 Tapestry album lyrics beginning "So far away. Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?" It's true. Families no longer are so apt to stay in the same community. Jobs and opportunities are often hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from people we care about. When problems affect them - like dementia or disease or just getting old, it can make far-away family members feel guilty that they are unable to do much to help.
If you are dealing with long-distance caregiving, you may have concerns about everything from home safety issues, to making the most of medical appointments, to finding a live-in companion or a nursing home. I have a booklet "So Far Away- Twenty Questions and Answers about Long-distance Caregiving" that I'd like to share. Published in August, 2010, this easy to read booklet and resource guide comes from the National Institute on Aging Information Center in Gaithersburg, MD and I have enough for the first 19 people who request it. You can get a copy at my offices at 668 Elm Street, Tionesta, or request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone to 814.755.3544. There is no charge for this booklet but I only have 19 so make your request ASAP.
While I myself couldn't contribute to my parents' end-of-life care, I haven't dodged the bullet - my sisters up in New York state are all in reasonably good health, but they are 6, 9, and 11 years older than I and as "the baby" of the family it's not unreasonable to expect that some responsibility for their care and well-being may rest in my hands someday. Recently, a sister asked if I'd be her health care proxy so I can determine medical decisions for her if she is unable to. She also lives 300 miles away. Of course I said yes - it will be my turn to help and this is what family does.