Having a close friend or family member coping with cancer or another serious illness can be very difficult when you live and work more than an hour away. Providing daily caregiver support may not be possible, but you can still provide valuable assistance through respite care.
Respite care involves providing support services to the patient on a short-term basis, allowing the patient’s primary caregivers to attend to family emergencies, remote work assignments, or just a much needed weekend away. By clearing just a weekend a month to provide help for caregivers, you can substantially improve the quality of life for both your loved one and those that provide the everyday help that you cannot. Let the patient and her caregivers know in advance how often and when you may be available for respite care. A primary caregiver may face unpredictable work demands, and knowing when she can call on you for help will give her peace of mind and reduce stress. Become familiar with the patient’s needs. Does she need transportation assistance? Help with chores? Help with basic daily activities such as bathing? If you cannot provide all the services she requires, identify local resources that can support you when you are caring for the patient on a short term basis.
Even if the patient’s care providers do not need help with everyday activities, a few days’ help with large chores such as home and yard maintenance or altering the patient’s home to be safer and more accessible are often welcome. Caregivers and patients are often overwhelmed and do not ask for help. Volunteer your assistance and be specific.
Other ways to provide caregiver support from a distance include helping the patient manage her financial situation, contacting insurance companies and health care providers on her behalf to discuss billing and treatment approvals, and researching treatment options and alternate insurance plans.