Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Carer variables
  3. Caring at a distance

Caring at a distance

The following resources examine long distance care, and managing care when not co-resident or in propinquity.

Click on the title of any resource to find out more about the source of the information such as the type of reference, ISBN/ISSN, publication year, keywords. A number of these fields can be used to find further resources i.e. with the same keywords, or by the same author using the links on the right-hand side and within the Key Information box.

You can also click on an author's name in the list below to find further resources by that author, and use the DOI and other links to access the original source material (note: some source materials require subscription or permission to access).

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges and opportunities for carers in NSW

Carers NSW has been closely monitoring COVID-19 developments in NSW, the ongoing government response and the wide ranging impacts the virus and associated social distancing requirements have had on carers. Carers have experienced a variety of impacts, both in relation to the people they care for and in relation to their own health and overall wellbeing. Many carers provide care and support to people who are in higher risk categories, and many are in higher risk categories themselves due to age or an existing health condition. These factors have resulted in complexities surrounding provision of care, particularly in maintaining social distancing.  [...]

Carers NSW determined that it was crucial to hear directly from carers and other key stakeholders in order to gain a clear and accurate picture of the key issues, challenges and opportunities for carers during the pandemic. This report identifies the key findings of consultation conducted to inform Carers NSW service adjustments and systemic advocacy. 

Original source (some source materials require subscription or permission to access)

The "Last Child": Lone Family Caregivers in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

I investigate local explanations for a common family configuration of care for older relatives on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: the "lone family caregiver." Through the examination of a paradigm case emerging from these explanations, I argue that local logics can divest some children of obligations to care for their older parents. I suggest that this case is an important addition to recent discussions within the anthropology of care that emphasize how families practice "care across distance," as it offers an alternative example of how families manage care in the context of migration. 

Access source material through DOI

Caring Near and Far by Connecting Community-Based Clients and Family Member/Friend Caregivers Using Passive Remote Monitoring: Protocol for a Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial

Background: Significant chronic disease challenges exist among older adults. However, most older adults want to remain at home even if their health conditions challenge their ability to live independently. Yet publicly funded home care resources are scarce, private home care is expensive, and family/friend caregivers have limited capacity. Many older adults with chronic illness would require institutional care without the support from family member/friend caregivers. This role raises the risk of physical health problems, stress, burnout, and depression. Passive remote monitoring (RM), the use of sensors that do not require any action by the individual for the system to work, may increase the older adult's ability to live independently while also providing support and peace of mind to both the client and the family member/friend caregiver.; Objective: This paper presents the protocol of a study conducted in two provinces in Canada to investigate the impact of RM along with usual home care (the intervention) versus usual home care alone (control) on older adults with complex care. The primary outcome for this study is the occurrence of and time to events such as trips to emergency, short-term admission to the hospital, terminal admission to the hospital awaiting admission to long-term care, and direct admission to long-term care. The secondary outcomes for this study are (1) health care costs, (2) client functional status and quality of life in the home, (3) family/friend caregiver stress, and (4) family/friend caregiver functional health status.; Methods: The design for this study is an unblinded pragmatic randomized controlled trial (PRCT) with two parallel arms in two geographic strata (Ontario and Nova Scotia). Quantitative and qualitative methodologies will be used to address the study objectives. This PRCT is conceptually informed by the principles of client-centered care and viewing the family as the client and aims at providing supported self-management.; Results: This study is supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. A primary completion date is anticipated in fall 2022.; Conclusions: Findings from this real-world rigorous randomized trial will support Canadian decision-makers, providers, and clients and their caregivers in assessing the health, well-being, and economic benefits and the social and technological challenges of integrating RM technologies to support older adults to stay in their home, including evaluating the impact on the burden of care experienced by family/friend caregivers. With an aging population, this technology may reduce institutionalization and promote safe and independent living for the elderly as long as possible.; Trial Registration: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) 79884651;; International Registered Report Identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/15027.

Access source material through DOI

What influences the use of professional home care for individuals with spinal cord injury? A cross-sectional study on family caregivers

Study Design: Cross-sectional survey.; Objective: The objective of this study is to identify what characteristics of the family caregivers influenced the use of professional home care for persons with SCI in Switzerland.; Setting: Community setting, nationwide in Switzerland.; Methods: Questionnaires were filled out by the adult family caregivers of persons with SCI. Influence of characteristics of the caregivers was analyzed with regression models, adjusting for the characteristics of the person with SCI. Logistic regression was used for whether professional home care was used. Poisson regression was applied for the absolute and relative amount of professional home care.; Results: In total, 717 family caregivers participated in the study (31% response rate). Among the participants, 33% hired professional home care for 10 h per week on average. The level of dependency of the persons with SCI had a significant influence on the utilization of care. The availability and proximity of the primary family caregiver, namely being spouse and cohabiting, reduced the amount of services used, whereas caregivers who worked full time employed more services. Higher levels of education and income increased the use of professional home care. Compared with their reference groups, caregivers with older age and those with a migratory background used comparable or larger absolute amount of professional services, which, however, represented a smaller proportion of total hours of care.; Conclusions: Adequate support requires consideration of the characteristics of both the caregiver and of the person with SCI. The needs of family caregivers should also be assessed systematically in the needs assessment.

Access source material through DOI

Closer: A videoconference intervention for distance caregivers of cancer patients

Distance caregivers (DCGs) represent a growing demographic. The emotional burden of caregiving for a family member with cancer is amplified by the logistical challenges of providing support from afar. DCGs feel higher levels of distress, anxiety, and depression compared with local caregivers. Videoconference technology may alleviate both the emotional and practical burdens faced by DCGs. This is an ongoing randomized controlled trial in 32 outpatient ambulatory clinics at a large, urban, comprehensive cancer center. To date, 332 patient‐DCG dyads have been enrolled. DCGs must have internet access and have been identified by the patient as a source of support. The intervention period is 4 months. DCGs are randomized to one of three arms: DCGs in Arm 1 receive four coaching sessions with an advanced practice nurse or social worker and four videoconference appointments during the oncologist‐patient office visit. DCGs in Arm 2 participate in four videoconference appointments with the oncologist and patient, and Arm 3 is the control group, which receives access to information through a website. Primary outcome variables are DCG distress, anxiety, depression, burden, self‐efficacy, and emotional support. These data are collected electronically at baseline, 4 months, and 6 months. Patient distress, anxiety, and depression are also assessed at these same intervals using brief in‐person interviews. The change in each of the DCG outcomes over time will be examined by a repeated measures analysis of covariance.

Access source material through DOI

Geographical proximity and depressive symptoms among adult child caregivers: social support as a moderator

Objectives: This study examined whether geographical proximity is a predictor of depressive symptoms, and whether family and friend support can moderate the relationship between geographical proximity and depressive symptoms. Method: A survey of 557 adult child primary caregivers was conducted in Shanghai, China in 2013. Geographical proximity was measured as a categorical variable: coresidence, short distance (less than 30 minutes' travel time), and long distance (more than 30 minutes' travel time). Family and friend support were assessed using the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Depressive symptoms were evaluated using the Center on Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Multiple regression analyses and interaction terms were used to test the moderating roles of family and friend support. Results: Adult child caregivers who live more than 30 minutes away from care recipients experienced higher depressive symptoms than coresiding caregivers (β =.114, p <.01). Family support (β = −.408, p <.05) and friend support (β = −.235, p <.05) were protective factors that lessened depressive symptoms for long-distance adult child caregivers. Conclusion: This study adds spatial dimension to caregiving literature and extends stress process theory. These findings have important implications for service planning and social support for adult child caregivers.

Access source material through DOI

Caregiving, Employment and Social Isolation: Challenges for Rural Carers in Australia

Australia has one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates, and there is a rapidly growing need for informal caregivers to support individuals who are ageing, have chronic illness or a lifelong disability. These informal carers themselves face numerous physical and psychological stressors in attempting to balance the provision of care with their personal life, their work commitments and family responsibilities. However, little is known about the specific challenges facing rural carers and the barriers that limit their capacity to provide ongoing support. A cross-sectional survey composed of open-ended responses and demographic/socioeconomic measures used routinely by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) was used with a cohort of 225 rurally-based carers within New South Wales, Australia. Demographic questions specified the respondents’ age, gender, employment, caregiving status, condition of and relationship to the care recipient, postcode, residency status, and distance and frequency travelled to provide care. Open-ended comments sections were provided to allow participants to describe any issues and problems associated with caregiving including employment, travel, residency, carer support groups and any other general information. The results show that most rural carers were middle-aged women supporting a spouse or a child. Unpredictability associated with providing care exacerbated demands on carers’ time, with many reporting significant employment consequences associated with inflexibility and limited job options in rural locations. Specific issues associated with travel requirements to assist with care were reported, as were the impacts of care provision on the respondents’ own personal health. The majority of carers were aware of the social supports available in their local rural community, but did not access them, leaving the carers vulnerable to marginalisation. Problems associated with employment were noted as resulting in financial pressures and associated personal stress and anxiety for the caregivers. While this issue is not necessarily limited to rural areas, it would appear that the lack of opportunity and flexibility evident in rural areas would exacerbate this problem for non-metropolitan residents. The participants also identified specific barriers to the provision of care in rural areas, including the significant impact of travel. Access to support services, such as carer groups, were rarely accessed due to a mix of factors including inaccessibility, poor timing and a lack of anonymity. Financially, there was considerable evidence of hardship, and there is an urgent need for a comprehensive review of government and community-based support to better meet the needs of rural carers.

Access source material through DOI

Do siblings free‐ride in “being there” for parents?

There is a potential free‐rider problem when several siblings consider future provision of care for their elderly parents. Siblings can commit to not providing long‐term support by living far away. If location decisions are made by birth order, older siblings may enjoy a first‐mover advantage. We study siblings' location decisions relative to their parents by estimating a sequential participation game for U.S. data. We find (i) limited strategic behavior, that is, in two‐child families, more than 92% of children have a dominant strategy, and (ii) a nonnegligible public good problem, that is, in families with multiple children, 18.3% more parents would have had at least one child living nearby had location decisions been made cooperatively.

Access source material through DOI

The social consequences of living with and dealing with incontinence—A carers perspective

Incontinence is a discrediting and stigmatising condition for those who experience it, as it signifies a person who is lacking in self-control. For their carers, the very nature of undertaking ‘dirty work’ signifies a low status and low paid job. Those health care professionals higher in status and financial reward put distance between themselves and bodywork, especially bodywork that deals with bodily decay. However, little is known or has been highlighted about the social consequences that living with and dealing with incontinence can have on informal carers. In this paper we examine the notion of dirty work and ‘unbounded’ bodies in the role of informal carers. Through qualitative interviews with carers of stroke survivors the negative social consequences of dealing with incontinence for both the survivor and the carer are explored. We also examine the strategies employed by carers and stroke survivors in order to manage the symptom in an attempt to prove the adult status of the survivor and to protect both the identity of the survivor and the carer. The embarrassment of leakage and the moral danger of odour can lead some carers and survivors to make decisions that can isolate both within the confines of their home. In this sense the very meaning of home is transformed into an isolated and marginalised space.

Access source material through DOI

The challenges associated with providing community care for people with complex heeds in rural areas: a qualitative investigation

The aim of the present study was to explore the experiences of recipients and providers of community care in rural areas in Northern Ireland. Additionally, the authors sought to examine the impact of location, housing and environmental factors on the delivery of community care to older people with complex needs. Individual, semistructured interviews were held with service users (n = 17) and family carers (n = 14). Individual and focus group interviews were conducted with care assistants, health and social care professionals, and senior managers from a large health and social care trust and health and social services board in Northern Ireland. The importance of enabling older people to remain in their own homes and communities was emphasised by all participants. The main challenges associated with care provision in rural areas included: difficulties recruiting care assistants; lack of choice of care assistants; isolation; travel and distance between clients and their care assistants; and poor housing conditions. There was a general consensus among participants that the effectiveness of rural community care was perceived to be reliant upon the goodwill of the community. Additionally, changing demographic trends and the predicted shortfall in the number of formal and informal carers were considered key issues for service planners. A number of creative strategies could be used to address many of the limitations associated with rural isolation. These should involve capitalising on available community networks. However, planners should also acknowledge that additional resources are required to maintain older people in rural communities.

Access source material through DOI

Facilitating support groups for siblings of children with neurodevelopmental disorders using audio-conferencing: a longitudinal feasibility study

Background: Siblings of children with chronic illness and disabilities are at increased risk of negative psychological effects. Support groups enable them to access psycho-education and social support. Barriers to this can include the distance they have to travel to meet face-to-face. Audio-conferencing, whereby three or more people can connect by telephone in different locations, is an efficient means of groups meeting and warrants exploration in this healthcare context. This study explored the feasibility of audio-conferencing as a method of facilitating sibling support groups

Methods: A longitudinal design was adopted. Participants were six siblings (aged eight to thirteen years) and parents of children with complex neurodevelopmental disorders attending the Centre for Interventional Paediatric Psychopharmacology (CIPP). Four of the eight one-hour weekly sessions were held face-to-face and the other four using audio-conferencing. Pre- and post-intervention questionnaires and interviews were completed and three to six month follow-up interviews were carried out. The sessions were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematic analysis was undertaken.

Results: Audio-conferencing as a form of telemedicine was acceptable to all six participants and was effective in facilitating sibling support groups. Audio-conferencing can overcome geographical barriers to children being able to receive group therapeutic healthcare interventions such as social support and psycho-education. Psychopathology ratings increased post-intervention in some participants. Siblings reported that communication between siblings and their family members increased and siblings’ social network widened.

Conclusions: Audio-conferencing is an acceptable, feasible and effective method of facilitating sibling support groups. Siblings’ clear accounts of neuropsychiatric symptoms render them reliable informants. Systematic assessment of siblings’ needs and strengthened links between Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, school counsellors and young carers groups are warranted.

Access source material through DOI

A telehealth behavioral coaching intervention for neurocognitive disorder family carers

Objectives: This study examined the differential impact of two telehealth programs for women caring for an older adult with a neurocognitive disorder. Outcomes examined were depressive symptoms, upset following disruptive behaviors, anxious and angry mood states, and caregiving self-efficacy.

Methods: Women cohabitating with a family member diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder were assigned via random allocation to either of the following: (1) a 14-week behavioral intervention using video instructional materials, workbook and telephone coaching in behavioral management, pleasant events scheduling, and relaxation or (2) a basic education guide and telephone support comparison condition. Telephone assessments were conducted by interviewers blind to treatment condition at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 6 months following intervention.

Results: For those providing in-home care at post-treatment, depressive symptoms, upset following disruptive behaviors, and negative mood states were statistically lower in the behavioral coaching condition than in the basic education and support condition. Reliable change index analyses for Beck Depression Inventory II scores favored the behavioral coaching condition. Caregiving self-efficacy scores for obtaining respite and for managing patient behavioral disturbances were significantly higher in the coaching condition. Effect sizes were moderate but not maintained at the 6-month follow-up.

Conclusions: This study provides some initial evidence for the efficacy of a telehealth behavioral coaching intervention compared with basic education and telephone support. Carers' abilities to maintain strategy use during progressive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease likely require longer intervention contact than provided in the current study. Dementia carers, including those living in rural areas, can benefit from accessible and empirically supported interventions that can be easily disseminated across distances at modest cost. © 2015 The Authors. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Access source material through DOI

Working carers of older adults

Juggling work and care presents particular challenges to carers and employers. Employers are increasingly under pressure, both from within organizations and from recent government legislation and policy, to develop family-friendly policies to support informal carers in the workplace. Yet existing ‘family-friendly’ schemes and services are still primarily designed for working parents of young children and rarely address the needs of employees who care for older or disabled adults. This paper reports on a study which investigated how working carers and managers in two public sector organizations — a Social Services Department (SSD) and a National Health Service (NHS) Trust — combined their work and caring responsibilities. A multi-method approach was adopted consisting of five phases. First, a profile of the two organizations was established, followed by a short screening questionnaire to all employees to identify who was caring for an older adult over the age of 60. Third, a lengthier postal survey was sent to the 365 carers who had indicated a willingness to participate further. In the fourth and fifth phases, carers and managers were interviewed in depth about their experiences. This paper reports briefly on the survey, but then concentrates in particular on what was said in the interviews about what helps and hinders working carers of older adults. Despite the existence of policies to support carers, our findings suggest that these were far less important than informal support from colleagues and a sympathetic manager in the workplace. Commuting distance between work, home and the older person also posed difficulties for carers, along with inflexible schedules and work overload. Employers are urged to explore these issues further if they are serious about recruiting and retaining employees, and developing the work – life balance agenda to meet the needs of those caring for older and disabled adults.

Access source material through DOI

Towards a more liveable life for close relatives of individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder

The life of close relatives of persons with bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with emotional distress, depression, and a high level of use of mental health care. Illness-related changes of their life situation endanger relationships, social life, finances, and occupational functioning. Understanding of facilitating conditions for close relatives is still a neglected research area. The aim of the present study thus was to explore what makes the life of close relatives of persons with BD more liveable. A lifeworld phenomenological approach was used. The findings reveal that keeping distance, having stability in everyday life, and strengthening equality through transparent communication are conditions that enable close relatives to influence the unpredictable and its consequences and thus make life more liveable. This implies contributions from close relatives, the person with BD, and the caring services. We propose that health-care support should not be divided in support for the patient and/or the close relatives but instead be designed as support for the ‘patient and close relatives’ as a unit. Professional caregivers need to take responsibility for creating intersubjective settings for the person with BD and their close relatives to share their needs and make joint plans for how to influence the illness-related life issues.

Access source material through DOI

Out of sight out of mind? Support and information given to distant and near relatives of those with dementia

Objectives: Increasing attention has been paid to the needs of family members caring for a person with dementia but little has been written about the impact on the wider family. This paper was intended to see whether the need for information would stretch to those relatives living far from the patient.

Method: A case-control study comparing two sets of relatives of community-dwelling probands in contact with secondary services and having a clinical diagnosis of dementia: one set of relatives living less than an hour away and another set living further away. The reported need for and source of information obtained by relatives was questioned using a specially designed questionnaire. Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Clinical Dementia Ratings Scale were used with probands.

Results: Relatives living distantly from the person with dementia reported similar rates of subjective distress but were more often dissatisfied with information received. Distant relatives were also less likely to access information from books or lay societies.

Conclusion: The impact of having a relative with dementia does not lessen with distance. The wider family need support and information as well as ‘primary carers’. If the whole family is to be supported in their caring role, then clinicians and the lay societies need to widen their supportive net. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Access source material through DOI

Caring at a distance: learning and practice issues

Emphasis on support for informal carers focuses on those who provide, in the words of the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995, 'substantial' and 'regular' care. Following research and policy, professional education has also developed interest in those who live with the people they support, such as co-resident spouses and children of all ages. This article considers those who probably do not define themselves as carers and are usually referred to as 'relatives' or 'family', living at a distance from an older relative. It explores their possible need for support as well as the form and level of their involvement in relation to care managed services. It describes key areas or events to draw out practice issues and concludes with a discussion of the extent to which care management can work with such relatives. In many ways caring at a distance forces an examination of what is meant by 'care' and who can legitimately claim this as an emotion or status. The rationale for such interest is therefore three-fold. If social workers and social work educators restrict the meaning and their definitions of carers to those who provide 'hands on' services, as part of the care package, they risk alienating relatives from the learning experience of students. In doing so they may neglect these highly valued supports of older people and may leave relatives distressed and disempowered by anxiety over their contract with social work agencies.

Access source material through DOI

Carers' experiences of involvement in care planning: a qualitative exploration of the facilitators and barriers to engagement with mental health services

Background: Formal recognition and involvement of carers in mental health services has been the focus of recent policy and practice initiatives as well as being supported by carers themselves. However, carers still report feeling marginalised and distanced from services. A prominent theme is that that they are not listened to and their concerns are not taken seriously. Compared to service user views, the reasons underpinning carers’ dissatisfaction with care-planning procedures have been relatively neglected in the research literature, despite the substantial and significant contribution that they make to mental health services. The aim of the study was to explore carers’ experiences of the care planning process for people with severe mental illness.

Methods: Qualitative interviews and focus groups were undertaken with carers. Data were combined and analysed using framework analysis.

Results: Whilst identifying a shared desire for involvement and confirming a potential role for carers within services, our data highlighted that many carers perceive a lack of involvement in care planning and a lack of recognition and appreciation of their role from health professionals. Barriers to involvement included structural barriers, such as the timing and location of meetings, cultural barriers relating to power imbalances within the system and specific barriers relating to confidentiality.

Conclusions: This qualitative study led by a researcher who was a carer herself has developed the understanding of the potential role of carers within the care planning process within mental health services, along with the facilitators and barriers to achieving optimal involvement.

Access source material through DOI

An intergroup communication approach to understanding the function of compliance, outgroup typicality, and honest explanations in distant caregiving relationships : validation of a health-care communication scale

This study examines distant caregiving relationships to achieve a better understanding of the function of compliance, outgroup typicality, and honest explanations from an intergroup communication perspective. With more families living at a distance due to our increasingly mobile society, long-distance caregiving (LDC) is a unique and growing caregiving situation that caregivers must face. LDC differs for caregivers and patients in close geographic proximity due to lack of availability, lack of intimate understanding of the caregiving needs at hand, and unknown financial burdens. As family residential distance increases, additional and unknown stressors are placed on individuals who provide distant care to an aging adult; however, little is known about different accommodation types used in situations of close-proximity as compared with distance caregiving situations. A sample of 130 self-identified distant family caregivers completed an online survey about their communication with their care recipient. This study is one of the first known to examine communication in the distant family caregiving context, and it offers possibilities for future research on communication barriers and health issues that impact this growing population.

Access source material through DOI

Combining work and care: carers' decision-making in the context of competing policy pressures

Issues related to paid work and care are of global importance, reflecting the twin pressures of population ageing and efforts to increase labour market participation. Informal carers of sick, disabled or older people can experience tensions between policies aimed at support for care and support for employment. This article discusses a study of carers’ decision-making around work and care, drawing on evidence from interviews with 80 working-age carers in England. Carers are not homogeneous; their circumstances and needs differ reflecting age, gender, ethnicity, labour market participation, and the condition and/or needs of the person they support. This diversity is illustrated by contrasting rural and urban carers’ decisions and experiences about work and care. Key factors that impact on carers’ decisions are: current and anticipated financial need; the constraints arising from receipt of carers’ and other means-tested income maintenance benefits; personal identity; job opportunities and scope for flexibility; social services provision; carers’ own health. Distance, travel times and transport are unique additional challenges for rural carers who (wish to) work. These difficulties are further intensified when they intersect with other factors such as the Carer's Allowance, the local labour market and social services provision. The findings are evaluated in terms of the adequacy of current government policy measures.

Access source material through DOI

Immigrants and Long-distance Elder Care: An Exploratory Study

In this paper we explored the rationales and the processes among five Ghanaian immigrants residing in two cities in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA for providing care and support to their older adult relatives in Ghana. Although some of our participants indicated that elder care duties could sometimes be overwhelming, all expressed their willingness and desire to continue to provide care for their older adult relatives. Provision of elder care was viewed as a way to show family solidarity, and a means to demonstrate respect and appreciation to one’s older adult relatives and others who had provided support in the past. Our findings suggest older adults in Ghana can still rely on their family members who have migrated for care and support.

Access source material through DOI