Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Long Distance Comfort

I've been out of town on a business trip, and the week away reminded me of the trips I made back to my hometown while caring for my Mom. Long-distance caregiving is defined as living over 30 minutes away from the elder who needs care. This definition is a practical one. If you spend 30 minutes driving to and from your parent's place and spend an hour or two handling the current situation or visiting, you have spent the morning or afternoon in caregiving. You will have to arrange to be away from your job or find childcare during that time.

Today I'd like to talk to those of you whose parents live a day's drive away or more. In your case, a daytrip is not possible. Your visits may mean at least a weekend or more.

There are many aspects of longer-distance eldercare that are worrisome and difficult, but one of the most unsettling things is that, for bursts of time, you will be traveling and living in a place that is unfamiliar—your parent’s home (which is no longer yours), a relative's apartment, a hotel room. You will be without the surroundings that give you comfort. Your spouse, life partner or children may or may not be able to go with you, so another part of your support is missing.

These times away from home will be stressful. Don’t add to the stress by cutting yourself off from everything that makes you smile and feel comfortable. You are doing your best for your parent. Plan for Mini-vacations and Pauses-of-the-Day. Pack a bit of home to take with you. Think about where you'll be staying and what will give you most pleasure. Consider...

  • Tapes, downloads or CD’s of your favorite music. Don’t forget to bring along a player if your parent doesn't have one.
  • Keep your cell phone with you, even if you turn it off. Make sure you have the phone numbers of your best friends on speed dial in case you need some long-distance hugs.
  • Plan on watching that favorite ball game or sports event on TV.
  • Bring your favorite pajamas, robe or quilt, something to relax in after a stressful day.
  • Bring a stuffed animal (this is no time to be shy about Fluffy!).
  • To move your whole body, pack walking or exercise clothes and shoes.
  • If cooking or baking relaxes you, bring your favorite recipes to cook or bake your favorite foods.
  • Pack your personal journal to let out those pent up emotions.
  • Bring your favorite books--in paper, electronic reader, or tape.
  • If this is a visit of longer than a weekend, plan to do one favorite thing while you’re there—take in a movie, golf, visit a museum.
  • DVD's of movies or TV shows slip easily into luggage. Bring something that will make you laugh or escape into a fictional world. Don't forget a player.
  • Bring bubble bath, favorite cologne, scented candles, a picture of your significant other.
  • For longer stays, consider bringing your pet if the situation will not be unsuitable or tax you further.
  • Bring your favorite coffee, tea, soda pop, foods. Your own brand of coffee in the morning can brighten the day.
You have the idea. Pack up your comfort and take it with you.

Blessings on your caregiving!

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