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I live in California and my mother, who has just been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's, lives in New York City. She doesn't want to come and live with me, and I have a job and children and am not free to travel to the East very much. My brother lives in New Jersey, but can't take responsibility for my mother's care. Mom can still live on her own for now, but she needs some help and someone to check up on her. Do you have a suggestion on what I can do 3,000 miles away?

One of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks many caregivers face is the coordination of care for their loved one. This is especially true for long-distance caregivers. Whether the caregiver lives an hour away, in another state or on separate coasts, finding resources, arranging services and coordinating your own visits and travel plans can be overwhelming.

The following suggestions can assist those who find themselves providing long-distance care.

If you live in the state of California, there is a Caregiver Resource Center that can help you. Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116 can direct you to the Area Agency on Aging that serves the area your loved one lives in. The Area Agencies on Aging can provide information on resources that serve persons aged 60 years or over. Family Caregiver Alliance can also help you locate services in your community. Call (800) 445-8106 or email info@caregiver.org.

Determine Needs
Determine what types of services are needed. When caregiving long-distance this can be particularly difficult. Communicate with your loved one’s physician or friends and neighbors who may be able to provide you with information on their physical, mental or behavioral changes or who may be able to identify your loved one’s needs.

Availability of Services
Educate yourself on the types of care and services available. Although every area is unique in the type of services that are offered, there are similar kinds of services found throughout the U.S. (e.g. adult day care, home care, case management, etc.). To learn more about what kinds of services might be available, Family Caregiver Alliance’s web site provides a fact sheet on Community Care Options as well as other topics.

Taking Care
Take care of yourself. Caregiving can be stressful. Create a support network for yourself. Talk with friends and family. Ask your local Caregiver Resource Center or Area Agency on Aging about a caregiver support group.

Respite Services
Allow yourself to try using respite services, hiring help, or involving other family members.

Understand that care needs will change over time; it’s not too early to think about possible future arrangements. Once you locate resources, speak to a social worker who has experience in planning for eldercare. There are many options to be considered, and you’ll want to make informed, well thought-out decisions about your mother’s care. For more information see FCA’s Handbook for Long-Distance Caregivers.