Commuting back and forth between cities or states is strenuous for anyone-even those not involved with caregiving. Those who are responsible for a relative may also experience financial strain, job stress and feelings of guilt and anxiety.

It's important that when you visit an older relative, you make the most of your time together.

Talk with your relative so that the two of you can analyze the situation, recognize problems, activate informal support networks and coordinate social services. Allow yourself enough time to accomplish necessary tasks, such as visiting social service agencies.

Be careful not to antagonize your relative, but rather enlist his or her involvement. You need to talk honestly about your relative's ability to remain in the current situation and the supports that are needed. You and your relative's perception of the situation may differ greatly. You may think that he or she is unable to perform certain tasks when all that's needed is more time to complete the task. Remember that a person may be willing to sacrifice a great deal to remain in his or her own home. As long as there is no threat to their physical or mental well-being, older persons should maintain control over their own lives.

If your relative is still able to remain independent, you might want to establish a back-up plan of support in case needs change in the near future.

While you're visiting, be observant.

* Do you notice anything unusual?

* Is your relative eating nutritiously?

* Does he or she have contact with others?

* Are finances being handled appropriately?

* Are there obvious safety problems?


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NIBack to the Long Distance Caregiving Index