Dear Mary
Long Distance Guilt

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Dear Mary,

My brother lives close to our parents and does most of the things to help them and take care of them.  I live 2 thousand miles away.  I am always feeling guilty for not being there and helping out.  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Jan

Hi Jan:

Guilt can be a powerful, often ugly beast. Our guilt can be endless; the energy we have to deal with it is not.  Of course everyone’s situations and resources are different, so being a long distance caregiver means that you must be much more creative to whom you offer your help and how you help.  It might be simple things like:

  • Being the support system for your brother. He may need a good listener (you) to just hear him talk about issues.
  • Trust him (assuming you do) and tell him that you trust him.
  • Express your appreciation to him – I cannot tell you how glad I was when my siblings would call or write in an email that they were very appreciative for my work.  Always find ways to thank him.
  • Send some gift cards for both your parents and your brother– this could be for extra gas, or even local fast food places or restaurants.  Little treats will be appreciated.
  • Plan to get back home and help if you can.
  • Call you parents as much as you can
  • Send extra money if you can.  Money just seems to pour and perhaps your brother is spending his own money to help out.  This money could be used to hire somebody to care for your parents and give him a break or it could be used to buy extra food.  Even if money is not an issue, sending some will be appreciated.

Accept that there are limitations to what you can do from a distance and mostly work on a plan that will help you to manage your guilt  What you offer and do may not be perfect, but in your heart if you do the best that you can, based on your own resources, creativity and location, then you will have done all you can to help.

I truly believe that if you don’t do your best, (regardless of your location) then you should feel guilty.  If you find ways to truly add value to your brother and your parents, than this will help free you from alot of guilt.  Being guilt free means that you have contributed to the best of your abilities.  Being guilt free is a gift only you can give to yourself.

Mary

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Caregiving Matters

Mary is a daughter. She also Chairs our charity. Mary has also held Director roles on three other boards, most recently with The Palcare Network of York Region.

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