How to Help Your Loved One with Depression Living Far Away
October 2, 2023
Caregiving from a Distance
Approximately 11 % of Americans provide care for a family member who lives an hour or more away. With your loved one with depression living far away, the distance can make it difficult to know how they’re doing. Is your loved one’s treatment effective? Are they taking their medication? When you can’t see their environment, how do you know if they are safe? Do they have a strong support system and good social network?
So many questions for caregivers! Such uncertainties can leave you feeling helpless and stressed.
Although you can’t always be physically close to those you love, you can still provide support to your loved one who struggles with depression. Below are suggestions for taking care of your loved one and, equally important, yourself!
Even though helping those we love gives us a sense of gratification, 4 out of 10 caregivers consider their caregiving situation to be highly stressful, especially when doing so from a distance. It is important that you take steps to minimize the stresses of caregiving for a loved one with depression living far away. Remember, you cannot give what you do not have. There are dozens of effective strategies for self-care. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Maintain an active lifestyle
- Get an appropriate amount of sleep
- Have a strong support system
- Get your own therapist for professional support
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Engage in a hobby or craft that you enjoy
- Practice yoga or meditation
- Set realistic expectations and maintain boundaries.
You are the expert when it comes to your loved one! Depression often affects a person’s thinking. You may be the first one to recognize changes in these processes. To help clarify these issues, FFDA adopted the ROAM acronym as shorthand for cognitive functions affected by depression. These are
Reasoning: comparing, analyzing, and making conclusions
Organization: planning ahead or keeping things in order
Attention: concentrating, focusing, being present in the moment
Memory: recalling details, remembering appointments.
Knowing these potential impacts can help you identify changes that may suggest your loved one needs help. Some of these impacts can be detected during phone or video calls, or even emails, making them useful when caring for a loved one with depression who lives far away.
Individuals living with depression often feel trapped in their emotional pain, believing that others are better off without having them to worry about. This is when they need additional support and understanding from you. Here are ways you can help your loved one with depression living far away:
- Letting them know when you see a problem
- Discussing expectations, both yours and theirs
- Sharing your observations about their words and behaviors with them, positive and negative
- Helping them find quality resources and care providers
- Asking what they need from you
- Offering or agreeing to do only what you will do
- Assisting with finding legal and financial support services.
Communication is key in all relationships. Although you want to help your loved one through their depression, you must let them lead! Here are a few tips to help build your communication skills:
- Use active listening
- Provide support and encouragement
- Be nonjudgmental and compassionate
- Plan ahead for difficult situations
- Get permission to be involved
- Utilize technology to communicate in real time
- Ensure boundaries are safely set and adhered to
- Remind them you love them, even if they don’t want your help at the moment.
Families for Depression Awareness has a wealth of resources to help you effectively support your loved ones.
- If you have questions or just don’t know where to start, watch our free webinar, Caregiving from a Distance: How to Support Someone Who Lives with Depression.
- Take the Caregiver Stress Test.
- Learn about communicating with a loved one living with depression.
- Build your own Caregiver Toolkit.
Michelle Burfoot has been a registered nurse for 25 years. She is currently a travel nurse working on assignment in Massachusetts. Michelle earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Virginia Commonwealth University-Medical College of Virginia and her master’s degree in public health from Liberty University. In her free time, Michelle enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time with her family.