The Experience of Long-Distance Caregiving: Dr. Elizabeth Yuko Reflects on Her Journey

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QUEENS, NY – AUGUST 5, 2018: Elizabeth Yuko uses FaceTime to call her mom Ivana Yuko, who lives in Cleveland, talking about Ivana’s health at her place in Queens. CREDIT: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D., the Health & Sex Editor for SheKnows Media and Adjunct Professor of Ethics at Fordham University, explains in her recent New York Times article, “Strategies for Long-Distance Caregiving,” that her biggest worries used to be politics, finances, and meeting work deadlines. Then her mother called and revealed she had been diagnosed with leukemia. After the call, Dr. Yuko was faced with worries about her mother’s health and how her family was going to be able to “navigate the myriad medical decisions that come along with cancer treatment.” These decisions are further compounded by the distance between Yuko and her mother.

Dr. Yuko currently lives in Queens, New York. Her parents live in Cleveland, Ohio, some 480 miles away. Yuko realized that constantly flying to Cleveland to be with her mother was going to be “unsustainable and prohibitively expensive” so she kept in touch through phone calls and FaceTime. On one of her visits to Cleveland, a researcher approached Yuko and asked if she would be part of a study on long-distance caregiving. Yuko agreed.

The study, “Closer: A Videoconference Intervention for Distance Caregivers,” conducted by Sara L. Douglas, looks into the ways technology can help long-distance caregivers “connect with their loved ones in meaningful ways.” Douglas explains that long-distance caregivers have not been “well-recognized” in the past.  To help make distance caregiving as successful as possible, Yuko outlines several strategies to “stay on top of things from afar.”

Yuko elaborated on the article, commenting:

“Although any type of caregiving — whether local or from a distance — is difficult, there are certain challenges specific to long-distance caregiving that I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to discuss in the New York Times article. These can range from everything from figuring out who will take your loved one to medical appointments and ensure they’re taking the proper medication at home, to having access to resources for yourself to help you maintain your own mental and physical health. As long-distance caregiving becomes more commonplace (and possibly at some point in the future, the norm), it’s important to acknowledge the unique circumstances of this arrangement from both sides.”

She also reflected on her participation in the distance caregiver study,  adding,

“I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the Closer study out of Case Western Reserve University. Aside from making it much easier to virtually attend my mother’s oncology appointments, it was also really interesting to be a participant in a research study and gain a new perspective on research ethics and study design.”

Read the full article at the New York Times.


Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health and Sex Editor at SheKnows Media, a women’s lifestyle digital media company and an Adjunct Professor of Ethics at Fordham University. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Blog by Emma Wonsil, MA in Ethics and Society ’19

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