Caring for a friend or family member who has cancer is not easy. It may only get more difficult when a caregiver lives far away. Long-distance caregiving may not be ideal for the patient or the caregiver, but it’s sometimes the only option. Long-distance caregivers can expect their out-of-pocket expenses to be higher, as the cost of travel alone is likely to be considerable. While long-distance caregiving may not be ideal, the American Cancer Society offers the following tips to help men and women entrusted with caring for a cancer-stricken friend or family member from afar.
• Make sure your loved one’s home is safe. When you get the chance to visit, make the most of that time and ensure his or her home is safe. If the illness has made things more difficult around the house, address any of these issues before you return home. Patients who receive chemotherapy are often weakened after treatment, so it can help to install some grab bars in the bathroom or purchase a shower seat to reduce the risk of falling in the shower. In addition, make sure handrails inside and outside the home are secure. If they’re loose, tighten them so they provide adequate support.
• Clean up around the house. Cancer patients may also be too weak to keep up with their chores around the house. A dirty home can be depressing to men and women battling cancer, so clean up around the house to brighten the home and reduce the risk of an insect or rodent infestation.
• Be ready for a crisis. No one wants to imagine a situation in which his or her loved one suffering from cancer has an emergency, but caregivers need to do just that. Have someone you can count on nearby to check on your friend or family member if you suddenly cannot reach the cancer patient. Introduce yourself to your loved one’s next-door neighbor or meet a close friend who lives nearby that you can contact should your friend or family member prove difficult to reach. • Make a list of medications and update it regularly. Cancer patients often take certain medications as part of their treatment and recovery, and caregivers should make a list of these medications, periodically updating the list as the treatment and recovery process progresses.
• Make sure your loved one has a cell phone. Though it might seem hard to believe, some people, especially the elderly, still do not have cellular phones. When serving as a long-distance caregiver, it’s imperative that you can easily and routinely reach your cancer-stricken friend or relative. Cancer treatment might make it difficult for him or her to get to a land line, so be sure he or she has a cell phone that he or she can carry with them at all times. Program important numbers, including your own number, as well as his or her physician’s and a neighbor’s or nearby relative’s number, into the phone.
• Stay in touch with the patient’s physician. While a physician might not be able to share all the details of your loved one’s condition, you can keep in touch with him or her to stay abreast of how the treatment and recovery process is going. A physician can help you tailor your caregiving to best manage the patient’s needs, adjusting that plan as the treatment and recovery process evolves.
Cancer patients, particularly those who are older, might have trouble getting around after treatment. Caregivers can take steps to ensure such patients’ homes are easier to navigate.