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Intentional Connections

Intentional Connections

Connecting with friends and family is essential for good health. We were made to connect with one another. In fact, we thrive on it, both mentally and physically. Researchers are exploring how social support and good relationships are converted into neurochemical signals that can boost one’s immune system. The quality of our social support and interpersonal connections can affect things like mood, motivation, coping skills, self-esteem and general well-being.

many hands together, friendship
hands, frienship

Recently I participated in a program where we learned to make a Vision Board and set goals for our own personal vision. The area I focused on was ‘heart.’ I wanted to be more intentional about connecting with family and friends. I do not want to look back later and have regrets about missed opportunities to connect with others, especially my kids who will soon both be grown and flown, leaving an empty nest. Having just sent one child to college this fall, and the other child to follow in two years, I’m keenly aware of how quickly the years roll by.

For each person on my goal list, I tried to think of specific ways we could connect. For my husband I made a goal to plan a monthly date. This could be something as simple as a walk in the woods, or a breakfast out. For my teenage son, I simply need to be available whenever he wants to talk or share about his day and take an interest in his thoughts. For my daughter who is now in college, I try to support her when she calls or needs help and send an occasional text of a cute picture or positive affirmation.

So how do we become more intentional about connecting? September 26, 2022 just happens to be National Family Day to remind us to reconnect and cherish family and loved ones. Here are a few tips to consider:

Go on an outing

Whether it is a day in the park, a picnic, or a movie, an outing with your family can provide an opportunity to reconnect and enjoy some quality time.

Eat together

Family meals are a wonderful way to learn about one another’s day and reconnect daily. There are so many benefits to eating together as a family.

Plan a game night

Games bring families together for fun. When families have fun together, lasting memories are created. Be intentional about spending time together and make family game night a regular part of the schedule.

Use technology to connect

Modern technology makes it easy to connect. This article on unexpected connections provides helpful tips on how to creatively connect with loved ones both near and far.

When we are intentional in connecting with loved ones, beautiful and meaningful moments await. Be intentional. Connect often.

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

Create Your Own Vision Board: Bring your goals to life with a vision board! National 4-H Council, All State Foundation and Ohio State University Extension. https://4-h.org/about/4-h-at-home/emotional-wellness/digital-vision-board/

Perissinotto CM, Stijacic Cenzer I, Covinsky KE. Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(14):1078–1084. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1993

Uchino, B. N., & Way, B. M. (2017). Integrative pathways linking close family ties to health: A neurochemical perspective. American Psychologist, 72(6), 590–600. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000049

Live Healthy Live Well Blog from Ohio State University Extension, various posts:

  • College Send-Off: Are You Ready? By Shannon Carter
  • Empty Nest: Now What? by Misty Harmon
  • Take a Dine-In Day with Your Family by Lisa Barlage
  • The Case for Family Game Night by Shannon Carter
  • Unexpected Connections by Beth Stefura
  • Why We Need Connection by Jami Dellifield

A Deadly Reminder on E. coli

green romaine lettuce with black background

 I was surprised when I heard last month that E.coli cases were on the rise in Wood County, the county I live and work in. Currently, there are 23 known cases of Shiga toxin- producing Escherichia coli (STEC) E. coli identified by our local health department.  This is a huge increase from cases in the past. For example, in the last five and a half years the county has logged 27 E. coli cases. Of the 23 cases to date, 7 people from my community have been hospitalized, with ages ranging from 21- 60. According to the CDC , a specific food has not yet been confirmed as the source of this outbreak, but many sick people reported eating burgers and sandwiches with romaine lettuce before getting sick. Center for Disease Control also reports that E.coli cases  have been found in  Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and New York.

So, you may ask what is  Escherichia coli  (E. coli)? Well, E. coli can be found in intestines of animals and people, our foods and our environment. Most are harmless and can be a part of a healthy immune system. However, some E. coli can cause a lot of harm to the body. It can cause diarrhea, fever, severe vomiting and even kidney problems. Most people with (STEC) infection start to feel ill 3 to 4 days after eating something that contains the bacteria. However, people can feel ill anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.

 Ways to prevent the spread of E. Coli

                Good Personal Hygiene

A person washing their hands with soap and water
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after preparing food, after using the restroom and changing diapers.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals such as farms, petting zoos, fairs and even your own animal.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before preparing or feeding bottles or foods to an infant or toddler and before touching their mouths, and pacifiers.

Wash fruits and vegetables

  • Wash fruits and vegetables well under running water, unless the package says it has already been washed.

Cook meats thoroughly

  • Cook ground beef a minimum temperature of 160 degrees F.
  • Always use a food thermometer to check that the meat has reached a safe  minimum internal temperature.

Written by: Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Wood County

Reviewed by: Shannon Smith RD, LD, CDCES, Family and Consumer Sciences Program Coordinator, OSU Extension Wood County

Sources:

woodcountyhealth.org

https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-poisoning

The grieving is palpable and genuine, yet many never met the Queen. How is this outpouring of grief so real? Why are so many people sad when they aren’t personally familiar with her?

2 white peace lily flowers with green stems
Peace Lily flowers

The passing of a figurehead, celebrity, or Her Majesty the Queen can stir up feelings of sadness and grief, not because you are going to personally miss the warm hug you received every morning from them, the phone call received on your birthday, or family game nights… but maybe they represented something deeper within yourself. A passage of time, an ideology, an innocence, or maybe they were that something that was consistent in your ever-changing world.

At first, you may not understand why the death of this person has brought up feelings of sadness and grief, and you don’t always have to fully unpack that baggage, but rather acknowledge the emotions, allowing yourself to feel whatever feelings that you need in that moment. It is okay to grieve the loss of someone you didn’t know personally, as it may not be the actual person you are grieving, but what that person symbolized for you.

Your grief may be your outward expression of your ability to empathize with the parents, siblings, spouses, family, and friends of the one that passed, and is a wonderful act of compassion and concern for the welfare of others.  

Grief looks different for everyone because it is a personal process that takes time, and we each address it in a variety of ways.  Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave us five stages of grief to better help us understand the process.

  1. Denial – Refusal to believe the loss is real
  2. Anger – Can range from frustration to furry
  3. Bargaining – Attempt to strike a deal to change things
  4. Depression – Sadness when we realize our life is forever changed
  5. Acceptance – We understand our loss has happened and we can’t change it

Grief is a non-linear process meaning that we can process through the stages several times and in any order. However, if the grief process becomes overwhelming, too difficult, or persistent, reach out to a mental health professional as you do not have to deal with grief alone.

Written by Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Reviewed by Susan Zies Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, zies.1@osu.edu

References:

The Cleveland Clinic. (2022, March 21). The 5 Stages of grief after a loss. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-stages-of-grief/

Mayo Clinic, (2016, October 19). What is grief? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief

Parincu, Z. (N.D.). Sadness: Definition, Causes, & Related Emotions. Berkely Well-being Institute. Retrieved from https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/sadness.html

Suttie, J. (2019). Why the world needs an empathy revolution. Greater Good Magazine, Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_the_world_needs_an_empathy_revolution

Preventing Childhood Obesity

This is a photo of a persons feet, indicating physical activity.

Did you know that September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month?

According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 American children have obesity. Obesity in children cause a larger risk for health issues later in their lives. Although there are several health risks associated with childhood obesity, parents and caregivers can provide the framework to help their children live a healthier life.

Why is Childhood Obesity Important?

National childhood obesity awareness month is important because it promotes healthy eating habits, encourages parents to be role models for their children, and it educates parents.

Risks Associated with Childhood Obesity

There are many contributing factors with childhood obesity, including genetics, eating patterns, physical activity levels, and sleep routines. Children who are overweight or obese have a heightened risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Children with obesity are at higher risk of becoming an adult with obesity. Those adults are at a higher risk for stroke, cancer, premature death, and mental illness.

Prevention

Parents and caregivers play an important role in the prevention of childhood obesity. Parents and caregivers can model a healthy eating pattern, get the family to move more together, set consistent sleep routines, and replace screen time with family time. By modeling a healthy eating pattern, a family can help children maintain a healthy weight as they grow up. Parents and caregivers can help their children rethink their drink by choosing water, 100% juice, or plain low-fat milk. Moving more as a family could be more fun and attainable. This could be walking the family pet or active chores. Children aged 6-17 years of age need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Consistent sleep routines are important in preventing type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, and problems with attention and behavior. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities. It can also remove signals to eat unhealthy food. Practicing these methods from the CDC can help prevent childhood obesity.

MyPlate

MyPlate is a great resource for healthy eating for different age groups. There are several recipes included on MyPlate.gov.

MyPlate diagram to show serving sizes.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, August 29). Preventing childhood obesity: 4 things families can do. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/childhood-obesity/index.html

Life stages. MyPlate. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages

National childhood obesity awareness month. National Today. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://nationaltoday.com/national-childhood-obesity-awareness-month/#:~:text=National%20Childhood%20Obesity%20Awareness%20Month%20%E2%80%93%20September%202022

Written by: Megan Zwick, Family and Consumer Sciences & 4-H Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Union County, zwick.54@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jessica Lowe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Pickaway County, lowe.495@osu.edu

Don’t Fall This Fall

Senior woman sitting on carpet and touching forehead with hand

Falls are the leading cause of injury, even fatal injury, among older adults, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 1 in 4 Americans experience at least 1 fall every year, resulting in over 800,000 hospitalizations annually. Unfortunately, the numbers of people dying as a result of falling has been increasing, and researchers predict that by 2030, 168 deadly falls will occur each day in the U.S. 

The topic of falls is something to think and talk about. There are many commonly believed misconceptions about falls that may hinder someone from taking appropriate action that may reduce their risk of falling. For instance, some believe that loss of strength and accompanying falls are a normal part of aging and feel that limiting their activity and staying home will help prevent falls. However, the majority of falls (60%) occur in the home, while only 30% occur in public. Getting regular physical activity helps maintain strength and independence. Living spaces can be made safer by keeping floors free of clutter, making sure handrails and adequate lighting are present in all stairways, and securing rugs with double-sided tape or removing them altogether. Bathrooms can be made safer with the installation of grab bars in the tub/shower and toilet areas. 

Another misconception is that use of an assistive device, such as a cane or walker, will make a person more dependent, but these aids help many adults maintain or improve their mobility, allowing them to move about without assistance from others, even helping them to transport or carry items using a walker storage seat. For optimal benefit and safety, however, it is best for a physical or occupational therapist to provide proper fit and instruction on the use of such devices. 

While loss of balance and decreasing eyesight carry obvious risks for falls, there are other health concerns that require regular attention as well. Older adults should have their hearing and feet checked regularly;  according to John’s Hopkins Medicine, people with even mild hearing loss are 3 times more likely to fall than those with normal hearing. Certain disease states can affect the shape and sensitivity of our feet, possibly requiring special footwear for optimal safety and fit.

The National Council on Aging has set aside September 18th-24th as Falls Prevention Awareness Week, a national campaign to raise awareness of the devastating impact of falls and to increase knowledge of risk factors and actions which can be taken to prevent falls in the first place. They offer an online  “Falls Free CheckUp” tool to help individuals and family members assess fall risk and link them to other resources providing practical ways to help prevent a fall. The first step for most of us is to have a conversation, whether with a loved one we may be worried about or with our own care provider, about fall risks that should be addressed. 

Another practical way to improve mobility and decrease the risk of falling is to take part in Tai Chi for Beginners, a free online class offered Sept 19-Nov 4 through OSU Extension. Register at: https://go.osu.edu/tai-chi-autum2022

Written by Jennifer Little, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Hancock County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls.  NCOA Falls Prevention Week Toolkit.  https://www.ncoa.org/article/falls-prevention-awareness-week-toolkit.  Accessed 8/31/2022. 

Get the Facts on Falls Prevention.  July 21, 2022.  NCOA Center for Healthy Aging.  https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-falls-prevention.

Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers.  June 29, 2021. https://www.ncoa.org/article/falls-prevention-conversation-guide-for-caregivers

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been in existence since 2005, but it has always been 1-800-273-8255. While it has been great to have a number for people to call in a suicide crisis situation, a new government initiative is making it easier for people to get help. All a person has to do is call or text 988 to reach someone when they are in a state of emotional distress, having thoughts of suicide or harming others, or having substance abuse concerns.

One of the greatest advantages to this new number, besides making it easier for a person to remember, is that prior to making the shift, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was traditionally focused on supporting someone experiencing a suicidal crisis situation. Now, there is support for a person that just needs to talk through their anxiety, depression, or substance use distress.

Just as before, when a person calls the lifeline they will be linked to a trained professional such as a counselor, therapist, or social worker for support. These counselors are trained to reduce the stress of the challenge, provide emotional support, and link to local services if needed after the call is over. Research has shown that most calls to the lifeline can be managed or resolved over the phone; however, there are always exceptions.

Help us break down the stigma of receiving support by promoting 988! There is no shame in seeking out support. If you notice any of the below emotional, behavioral, or physical changes in someone, they may benefit from talking with a mental health professional. Keep in mind that most of these are compounded on top of each other and last for several weeks.

  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression lasting more than 2 weeks
  • Social isolation
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Difficulty following through with tasks at work or school

Remember your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It will take all of us to embrace the change to 988, but thank goodness it is easy to remember!

Written by: Bridget Britton, Behavioral Health Field Specialist, OSU Extension britton.191@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Mental Health. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/index.htm

Center for Public Health Practice, The Ohio State University College of Public Health. Ohio Mental Health Resource Guides. https://u.osu.edu/cphp/ohio-mental-health-resource-guides/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration. 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988


Man with ladder picking apples
My dad picking apples

Apple season is upon us! I grew up in a rural area in western New York where we had an old orchard of apples growing wild along the yard and woods on our property. We spent many fall days picking apples for homemade applesauce, cider, and many apple desserts. According to Agriculture Marketing Resource Center, Ohio is a top 10 producer of apples in the United States, growing around 50 varieties of apples. There are many great apple orchards throughout Ohio where you can pick your own apples, or you can stop by a farm stand or famers market to enjoy fresh, local, and delicious Ohio apples.

Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the United States. They are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber when you consume the skin. A raw medium (3 inch) apples is about 95 calories. Whether you are picking your own at a local orchard, selecting from the farmers market, or even the grocery store, here are some tips for selecting the right apple

basket of apples

Choose apples that are:

  • Firm.
  • Free of bruises, pitting, decay, or insect damage.
  • Well colored.
    •  Ground color is the color near the stem. An apple that is ripe and mature will have a more yellow tone verse a younger apple will be greener.

Apples can be sweet, tart or somewhere in between. For best results, use the variety that works best for your intended use. Here is a chart of common Ohio apples and their uses:

CortlandSlightly tart or spicy, great all-purpose apple.
FujiSweet excellent fresh or for baking.
GalaVery sweet, best fresh.
Golden DeliciousSweet, excellent fresh or for baking.
Granny SmithTart, excellent for baking.
HoneycrispSweet, excellent fresh.
McIntoshMildly tart, best fresh or for sauce.
Red DeliciousSweet, excellent fresh.

Apples can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4-6 weeks. Storing apples in a perforated plastic bag (with small holes for venting) controls the moisture and humidity which will help maintain the quality of the apple. Wash the apple with cool running water just before eating or utilizing.

A bushel and a peck…A summary of apple measurements

  • 1 pound = 3 medium apples, which makes about 1 ½ cups of applesauce.
  • 2 pounds is about 6-8 apples, which will make a 9-inch pie.
  • 1 peck = 10 ½ pounds.
  • 1 bushel = 40 pounds which can produce about 16-19 quarts of canned or frozen applesauce.

Apples are  versatile and can be enjoyed as a stand-alone fresh piece of fruit, chopped up on salads, processed as applesauce, cider, or juice, baked in many delicious desserts, or included as part of a savory main entrée. Need inspiration? You can find apple recipes at snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/apples

Written by: Laura Halladay, NDTR, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension, Greene County

Reviewed by: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension, Warren County

Photo Credits:

Apple basket by Larisa Koshkina accessed via Pixabay. Man picking apples by Laura Halladay

Sources:

Apples. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. (2021, September). Retrieved August 31, 2022, from https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/fruits/apples

Gao, G. (2017, January 12). Growing apples in the Home Orchard. Ohioline. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1401

Roper, T. R. (2001, September). When Are Apples Ripe? Retrieved August 31, 2022, from https://polk.extension.wisc.edu/files/2014/02/When-are-Apples-Ripe-A3743-E.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Apples. SNAP Education Connection. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/apples

Williams, T. (2021, July 8). Selecting, storing, and serving Ohio apples. Ohioline. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5507

With lifestyles constantly changing we need new opportunities for managing our well-being. Lifestyle Education is an on-going need for all family members. Everyday we hear how our health and wellness is under “attack”. We question the information being presented by and through the worldwide economic markets. America prides itself and supports research-based educational institutions. American History supports this fact by our legislative branch of government passing the Morrill Act of 1862 in which land was set a side to establish “land-grant colleges and universities” ; and in 1914, passing the Smith-Lever Act that established the Cooperative Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics.

What does this mean to Americans today – 108 years later? The demand for Continuing Lifestyle Education is higher today then in 1914. The Ohio State University Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Educators have stepped up to address the demand by offering Virtual Dining with Diabetes, a Lifestyle Education opportunity.

Registration: go.osu.edu/dwdfallseries2022

Written by:  Margaret Jenkins, OSU Extension Assistant Professor, Clermont County jenkins.188@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County. stefura.2@osu.edu

References:

Jones, Jo M. and Spiegel, Marilyn. Memories and Milestones of OSU Extension 1905-2013. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, 2013.

Remley, Daniel and Leadership Team. National Extension Dining with Diabetes Working Group. Housed at Ohio State University Extension in College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/nutrition/dining-diabetes. 2022.

Boschetto, Lacee R. and Williams, Amber S. Enriching an FCS Teacher Education Program with a Non-Formal Educational Emphasis. Proc. of American Association Family & Consumer Sciences Annual Meeting, Orlando, 2022.

…make lemonade!

In other words, don’t throw it out just yet! Fruit during any season can quickly overripe and end up in the trash…but don’t throw out the lemon (or fruit) just yet (unless it is moldy of course)! With the high cost of food, this summer I challenged myself to throw out less food, especially fruit, to learn to be more sustainable. I learned that it only takes a few minutes to turn overripe fruit into usable, edible food.

Here are 5 of the easiest (less than 10 minutes) ideas for using up fruits that are past their prime.

  1. Freeze that fruit! Freezing will stop the fruit from ripening any further, so you don’t have to toss it in the trash! If you freeze overripe fruit it can be used at a later time in smoothies or other recipes. Just peel (if needed), chop and freeze!
  • Make fruit roll ups. This is the easiest idea after freezing! Making fruit leathers or “fruit rolls ups” is easier than you think and healthier without the added sugar. All you need to do is puree the overripe fruit (blender or bullet works great) until liquid, then pour onto a rectangle cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, bake at 225 degrees for 4-5 hours and wala…a fruit roll up! The cooking times will vary depending on thickness and your oven. To finish, use a pizza cutter to cut into strips and then store in a container.
  • Toss in a crock pot! Tossing overripe fruit into the crock pot instead of the trash can, which could easily turn into chunky applesauce, peach cobbler or a healthy dessert with very minimal time and effort.
  • Make jams or jellies. Did you now that it only takes four ingredients to make uncooked jam. These include fruit, sugar, pectin and water! No cooking necessary! I made jam this week using overripe strawberries and here is the recipe I used from Ohio State University Extension who provide evidenced based recipes, fact sheets and 30 minute webinars on food preservation.
  • And finally, bake a fruit crisp or crumble! This easy and delicious dessert can be made in a few minutes with only a few ingredients. There are many recipes available, yet basically you would just slice the overripe fruit, place on the bottom of a pan then add the “crumble” on top of fruit (a combination of oatmeal, flour, sugar, spices, and butter) and bake! This can also be easily made into a gluten free dessert by using almond or oat flour!

So, when life does give you lemons…now you’ll know exactly what to do … and see that something good can come from it 😊.

Be well,

Shari

Written by Shari Gallup, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by, Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, Stefura.2@osu.edu

References:

Jams. Jellies and Other Fruit Spreads: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5350

Making Fruit Leathers: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5361

Selecting storing Serving Ohio Produce: https://fcs.osu.edu/sites/fcs/files/imce/PDFs/Selecting_Storing_Serving_series_published_2021.pdf

Sustainability. Family and Consumer Sciences Ohio State University Extension. https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/resources/sustainability

Caregiving for a loved one can be rewarding and fulfilling. However, the positive feelings often coexist with feelings of stress and strain. Caregivers have reported higher levels of physical, emotional, and financial strains. These stresses can also be compounded for those who are providing long distance caregiving. In today’s world, many families are spread apart geographically. According to the “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” study by AARP and the National Alliance of Caregiving, eleven percent of family caregivers live an hour or more away from their aging or ailing loved one.

Long-distance caregivers often incur more financial strain due to travel expenses, time off work, and the need to hire help. If loved ones are cared for primarily by a close relative, long-distance caregivers might feel additional emotional strain as feelings of guilt for not being more hands-on with the caregiving role.  

If you live an hour or more away from a loved one who needs care, you might wonder what you can do to help. Long-distance caregivers, however, can take steps to make their situation less burdensome and more fulfilling.

The first step is to develop open communication with all involved. Talking with the primary caregiver, neighbors, and healthcare professionals is the best place to start is to get a realistic view of what is going on with your loved one.

Once you understand your loved one’s condition, the next important step is to consider what skills you have to offer that can be done from a distance.

  • If you have strong financial skills, you can offer to help with money management, following up on insurance benefits and claims, or bill paying.
  • If you have strong people management skills, consider stepping in to locate local resources, coordinate calendars and schedule aides and other home care providers.
  • If you are good at communicating and researching, you could be become the information coordinator. Essentially being the conduit of information to all involved in the loved one’s life and care team. If this is the role that best fits you, be certain to get the permissions needed under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
  • If you have good organization skills, you can play the important role of getting all the paperwork in order. The National Institute on Aging recommends that things such as personal records, financial records, and legal documents should be up to date in case of an emergency.

Long-distance caregivers can contribute in various other ways. The National Institute of Aging provides additional ideas in Getting Started with Long-Distance Caregiving tool. Be thoughtful of what best fits you and your loved ones.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Belmont County, dunfee.54@osu.edu

References:

Bevan,J.L., Vreeburg, S.K., Verdugo, S. & Sparks, L. (2012) Interpersonal Conflict and Health Perceptions in Long-Distance Caregiving Relationships, Journal of Health Communication, 17:7, 747-761, DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2011.650829

Harrigan, M. P., & Koerin, B. B. (2014). Long-Distance Caregiving: Personal Realities and Practice Implications. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping13(2), 5–16. Retrieved from https://reflectionsnarrativesofprofessionalhelping.org/index.php/Reflections/article/view/988

National Institute on Aging, Getting Started with Long-Distance Caregiving, retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/getting-started-long-distance-caregiving

National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001