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Caring Tips & Advice

Tops 10 Tips for Caring At A Distance

Caring for someone who does not live with you has its unique challenges.


Understandably, many older people want to remain independent and live near their friends in familiar, homely surroundings. This can however lead to practical difficulties and causes for concern for family members who do not live nearby and pop in on a regular basis.

Distance can mean time as well as miles. Anyone who combines paid work with caring is, in effect, ‘caring at a distance’ because when they are at work they may need to rely on others’ support, or for the person they are caring to fend for themselves.

However, many carers also live some distance from the person they care for. In a survey of people who combine paid work with caring 64 per cent of carers said they lived in the same town as the person they cared for; one in five said they cared for someone in another part of the county, and 13 per cent said they cared for someone living further away than that.

Miles more problems

Whether work commitments or the miles between you, or both, is the issue, caring at a distance can take a physical, financial and emotional toll on all involved. Research carried out for Care Support Elmbridge in Surrey found that distance carers spent an average of 2 hours 30 minutes on the road each weekend, helping with lifts, shopping, managing money, cooking and cleaning. Most reported they had taken unpaid leave to allow them to care; some had gone from full-time to part-time work, and many were concerned by travel expenses and the costs of any care they could not provide themselves.
Trying to arrange care for someone at a distance can also mean navigating health and social care services in another part of the country – something even the experts struggle with. Quoted in The Guardian in 2012, Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult social care in England at the Care Quality Commission said:

‘If something happened to my dad and I had to do something for my mum, what would I do? What on earth do I know about what’s available and appropriate 250 miles away? I’ve got no idea – and I am somebody who knows their way around the system. If I’d be sat there in a bit of a panic, clearly a lot of other people would too.’

Top 10 tips

So what is the best way to go about caring for someone at a distance? Clearly, no two situations are exactly the same, but here are 10 suggestions that could be useful:

1. Organise life online. There are so many things that you can do on the internet now, from arranging to have groceries, meals or medicines delivered, to paying the bills through online banking, and keeping friends and family up to date with what’s happ ening. The website Care Central allows you to do this in a formal way by setting up a private group, or you could set up your own. Getting wifi installed for the person needing care can be very useful in case you need to work from their home.

2. Request a carer’s assessment. Even if you don’t live the same local authority area and even if you are paying your own way for services, you are entitled to an assessment and a care plan.

3. Help out! If you are not the primary carer, but still want to help, offer thoughtful support such as regular phone calls, giving other family members a break, or taking on a particular responsibility such as co-ordinating information.

4. Get to know the healthcare professionals who support him or her. It can make a big difference in a crisis to know who to contact and to have a good relationship with them.

5. Discuss an emergency plan. Knowing what you would do if an emergency happened and you weren’t there can help. Write down the plan of action – for example, who are the first local points of contact, who should have your number to alert you, who else should be told, and so on.

6. Inform your employer. If you work, explain your situation to your employer and, if you need it, make a request for flexible working. The organisation Employers for Carers has some good examples of best practice in helping employees combine work with caring.

7.Make contact with local charities and support groups to find out what help is available. For example, they may be able to offer lifts to appointments, or shopping, invitations to a lunch club, help with jobs round the house or with discharge from hospital.

8.Get to know your relative’s local friends and neighbours and make sure they know how much you value their support, whether they offer practical help or just keep an eye open for any problems.

9.Make the most of visits, not just to make sure that nothing is wrong, but also to enjoy valuable time together. "Try to determine your relative’s mood and general health," says Chris Moon-Willems, author of Relative Matters. “If they are depressed, they may brighten up during your phone call, but find their cheerful mood difficult to maintain during a longer visit".

10.Make everyday living easier! Browse the Healthcare store and investigate products and technologies that can help offer you peace of mind and keep the person you love safe.

Find out about our Healthcare Therapy Service and how it could help you or a loved one.

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