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To move or not to move: long distance caregiving dilemma

 

Question: I am a mother of two young boys, aged 7 and 11. My mom has Alzheimer's disease and my father is her primary caregiver. We live down the street from my parents. I also have two sisters that live in the same small town. I don't get to visit my mom as much as I would like because she is a smoker and, since her disease has progressed, she is now smoking in the house. I can't tolerate the smoke-filled house and my kids get sinus infections when we do visit.

My husband just completed his master’s degree and has been offered a job that would move us to a destination eight hours away by airplane. I'm trying to decide if I can deal with being so far away from my mom. Even though I only visit once a week, I am here to help my dad when he needs it. If you can you offer me any advice on this matter I will be very appreciative. Thank you.

Dr. Amy: One of the hardest things about your situation—and elder care planning in general—is that our decisions can affect the entire family and not just the person who needs care. Long distance caregiving can be a challenge. You can manage it, but there are many things to consider. Here are a few:

  • What are the financial aspects of a move? I encourage you to be realistic about the costs you may incur if you have to come home in the event of an emergency.
  • How often will you be able to come back to visit? Do you have a comfortable place to stay when you visit?
  • How will you stay in touch? Are you comfortable with new technologies like Skype and Face Time? What long distance plans are available to make staying in touch easy?
  • Can you make the move work in such a way that your sisters don’t feel abandoned? Can you have an open and constructive conversation about the support you can lend from afar—taking care of tasks like paying bills online, booking doctors’ appointments, calling your mother and father to provide emotional support?

If cost is not an obstacle, a geriatric care manager could sit down with you and your sisters and help you map out a plan. Whatever choice you make will have its pros and cons. Your challenge will be to figure out what you can live with and how best to minimize the downsides.

The National Institute on Aging has developed a helpful workbook about long distance caregiving, which I think you will find helpful. You can download a copy from http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/so-far-away-twenty-questions-and-answers-about-long-distance-caregiving-0. Good luck!

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http://www.caregiverstress.com/2013/04/to-move-or-not-to-move-long-distance-caregiving-dilemma/