Long pandemic lockdowns forced many older adults to become comfortable with video calls to stay connected with family. That in turn means that long-distance caregivers have a better way to see how their loved ones are faring.
“You can’t tell on the phone that they’re wearing the same clothes every day, or they’re not bathing because they’re afraid they’ll fall in the shower,” says Amy Goyer, AARP’s national family and caregiving expert and the author of “Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving.”
More than 1 in 10 caregivers look after family or friends from a distance, which can make the task much more difficult and expensive. A 2016 AARP survey found that caregivers in general incur an average of about $7,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses. Long-distance caregivers — those who live at least an hour away from the care recipient — incur about $12,000 on average, according to the survey. Long-distance caregivers are more likely than local caregivers to hire help, take unpaid time off work and pay for travel, Goyer says.
Yet many distant caregivers worry they’re not doing enough and that a preventable crisis will develop because they weren’t on hand to spot the red flags.
“As caregivers, guilt is our constant companion,” Goyer says. “When you’re a long-distance caregiver, it’s even more so.”