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Long-Distance Caregiving: The Three Most Unexpected Emotions

As a long-distance caregiver, you are probably filled with worry and exhaustion. You may also experience feelings of guilt, doubt and resentment toward your loved one. While these emotions may be unwelcome and may make you feel uncomfortable, they are not unusual among long-distance caregivers. You can find a way to cope with these emotions while facilitating long-distance caregiving.

Here are a few steps to start:

How do you cope with guilt? It may help to change a few things; call more, visit more if you can, and send cards and letters. The more you increase your communication and connection to your loved one, the less guilty you may feel.

Accept your limitations. Realistically, you may not be able to change the fact that you are a long-distance caregiver. However, if you accept that fact as the reality of the situation and then acknowledge your strengths as a caregiver, you may begin to feel better. List the things that you can do and the things that you cannot do. Find help and support services to provide the things that you cannot. When you make your own expectations concrete and find a way to meet them, it can help to reduce the guilt you feel.

Recognize your feelings. If you feel guilty, don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Realize that there are very real reasons why you feel guilty and then work to adjust the situation so you feel less so. Hiring an at-home caregiver or installing remote monitoring technology in your loved one’s home may help you to feel that your caregiving efforts have been extended. You don’t have to live with the guilt. You just have to implement strategies that will help you to reduce it.

How can you reduce doubt in your caregiving abilities? It is common for long-distance caregivers to doubt their abilities to care for a loved one. After all, you can’t be with them every day. They may sound frail when you talk to them, making you doubt that you are doing the right thing by living at a distance. However, you can replace that doubt with information. The more you learn about caregiving and the more resources for long-distance caregivers you have, the less doubt you may feel. Learn everything you can about Alzheimer’s disease or the specific type of dementia that your loved one is diagnosed with. Find community services for your loved one and support groups for yourself. Arm yourself with a battery of knowledge and you may see that doubt is pushed to the sidelines.

How do you avoid feeling resentful? For caregivers, resentment is the elephant in the room. Many feel it but few talk about it. Eventually, after months and years of caregiving, pushing personal time aside and struggling to juggle personal, work and home life, many caregivers are deeply resentful toward their loved ones. It is easy to ask “Why me?” after years of exhaustive attention to caregiving responsibilities. If you are resentful toward your loved one it is important to know that it is a very common feeling for caregivers.You are not a bad person because resentment has welled up because of the stress of being a long-distance caregiver.

However, it is important to resolve resentment because it can be a destructive emotion. It can interfere with caregiving duties and lead to apathy that may cause you to ignore important caregiving responsibilities. Perhaps the most effective way to deal with resentment is to talk about it. Talk to a trusted friend, advisor or member of the clergy. If you don’t have someone you trust to that extent, vent in a journal. As you talk or write about the stress of caregiving and the resentment you feel, it may begin to release and you may feel better. If not, seek the support and help of a therapist. Resentment can quickly turn to anger so make sure to find a way to work through it and resolve it.

If you are a long-distance caregiver you are providing a very important service to your loved one. It’s important to keep brain health in mind and understand the emotional impacts of long-distance caregiving. Additionally, it only helps to learn how caregivers can sustain their emotional health. The time that you spend caring for them and worrying about them can’t be calculated in dollars and cents. When you feel these emotions welling up, remind yourself of the good things you are doing to care for a loved one and practice being patient and kind to yourself.