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Supporting from a distance 
Started by Birch
15 Jun 2015, 2:50 AM

Hello All - I live and work in Southern Ontario.  My Dad who is dying from cancer and my Mom live in Northern Ontario.  The balancing of work and travelling up North to support them is definitely draining. Any advice from others on how to keep strong and provide support from afar. I had been going up weekly but it was taking its toll.  Am now going up every 2-3 weeks.

'Birch' (I thought of the birch trees on my trek home so that's why my nickname).   

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Reply by NatR
15 Jun 2015, 3:47 AM

Hi Birch,
welcome to the forum.
its very difficult to do long distancd caregiving.
sorry to read about your Dad being so ill.
do you have any other friends or family in the same town as your parents? It helps to have a contact person to drop by if needed - and you are too far away.

how about home support services? Meals on wheels?
church group? 
Doctors office helping? 

you are among friends here.  not everyone has the answer, but we try, and most of all we understand the caregiving commitment you are giving trying to give your parents.  
Sending you a hug,
natr ( also in a northern community) 

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Reply by KathCull_admin
15 Jun 2015, 4:15 AM

I welcome you to the forum as well Birch. I am glad you found us. As NatR said you will find people here who understand. Another member, Pudding started the thread Coping - Caregiving as life passes me by when she too was supporting her parents from a distance.

I can only imagine how tired you must be – and torn – between life and work and parents and worry. Do you make the drive on your own?


I was thinking about your nickname and how ‘Birch’ has a peaceful sound to it – like driving through countryside – which I am sure you could almost do with your eyes closed. I hope you find a place for some peace in your life this week. 


Are there people who support your parents in their community? You may have already looked at the Programs and Services but just in case it might help you find resources as NatR was suggesting.



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Reply by Birch
15 Jun 2015, 1:38 PM

NatR & Katherine - sorry, not sure how to reply individually online.

Thank you.  Already just having seen a response makes me feel supported.  We have one family relative that has been reaching out.  My husband is driving me up often, so that really helps. Have a brother who is also out of town so we try to go alternate times.

I will check out Pudding's info.  

I tried Meals on Wheels.  Mom can't seem to let go of not doing the meals. That being said, she doesn't do them consistently and has been showing signs of dementia and so also forgets to make meals.  Waiting for an assessment for her, to get supports in place however she denies that she is having a problem.  It's all quite complicated but I'm sure others have similar issues with 85+ aged parents.

Yes, it's funny that Birch came to mind.  I've been pretty good at keeping Zenlike, living in the moment and getting sleep is really key to handling it all.


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Reply by GirlWithTheBlackBeret
18 Jun 2015, 11:31 AM

Hi Birch,

I’m sorry to hear about your Dad. I was in a similar situation a few years ago when my Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I live in Toronto and she lived in Southwestern Ontario. I found it very stressful balancing work and acting as her main caregiver. I ended up working part time. I also coordinated her care between the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC – nursing and home care service the province runs), my sister and my aunts. We set up a weekly schedule and each of us had a specific day or days that we helped her.

Did the social worker at the cancer centre or hospital arrange for CCAC services for your Dad? These services were essential to us because it was my Mom’s final wish to die at home. So the CCAC hooked us up with the staff and equipment we needed to do that.

Another thing that may help you is the Compassionate Care Benefits offered through Employment Insurance? It family caregivers up to 6 weeks of paid leave to care for a dying loved one. Here’s a link: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/sc/ei/benefits/compassionate.shtml

If I could give any advice, it would be to apply for and take this sooner rather than later. I waited until my Mom got word from doctors that there was nothing more they could do for her to apply for the leave. Her condition worsened very quickly and she died before I had served the 2-week unpaid waiting period that EI makes you take. In hindsight, I should have taken the leave much earlier so that I could have had more quality time with my Mom before things got really bad.

I hope this helps,


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Reply by JennJilks
21 Jun 2015, 1:00 PM

I would echo Girl's advice. If you want to, do it now. Take some leave, get things going. Get CCAC involved. Your mother, with dementia, doesn't know what she doesn't know. Simple as that.

My ex-husband died suddenly of a heart attack, while his 2nd wife had Early Onset Dementia. It took a village to get things going (my daughter, wife's daughter and so on).

I quit a great job, moved, took on a horrible job (teaching anger management students, one on parole for assautling a teacher with a history of arrest for theft) and 6 weeks later mom died, while my dad's brain tumour worsened.
No one tells you how quickly things can go south. I should have taken leave. Simple solution. (CC Benefits didn't exist then, unless a doctor would declare a patient palliative –which he wouldn't do).
All the best. 
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Reply by KCBJ
24 Jun 2015, 12:38 AM

Hi Birch. So very sorry to hear about your parents.  Although I wasn't in the same situation as you, I made my mother my dependent.  {she passed away in September at age 99) Not sure you can do it with the distance but check it out. May be worthwhile benefit-wise since you are working.

In Manitoba, there is a home care program that allows you to hire a private agency. The provincial government pays for the services depending on how many hours your parents may need assistance. It includes various types of assistance, including cooking and cleaning, and just company to ensure your parents are safe, etc. Although my mother lived with me, it became a lifesaver to my sanity while at work. At a distance, it may give you assurance.

My mother also didn't believe she needed help and wanted to do it herself. She left the water on in the kitchen sink and it overflowed, as well as nearly burning the house down twice, among other things. i worked on her for over a year, but she finally accepted short visits. Her dementia made it difficult to say the very least. :-)

The councillors here are a wealth of knowledge and a fantastic support system. Others as well can provide great help here. Take care.

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Reply by KathCull_admin
19 Jul 2015, 4:45 PM

Hello everyone,
Birch just wondered how you are managing with all you are juggling in life....

KCBJ, it`s been 10 months since your mother passed away. I know in that time there have been a lot of `first times`. How are you doing....

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