The following article is re-printed with the permission of Caring from a Distance, a resource for family caregivers at


What’s “swooping”? It’s the way you behave when you fly in from Chicago for the weekend to visit your widowed mom in Boston. If you are a distance caregiver with limited time and a long list, this is what you do. It can be very helpful. It also can be extremely disruptive.

You arrived filled with ideas and concerns and a checklist of activities. But your sister, who also lives in Boston, is your Mom’s primary caregiver. If you manage your visit well, you can bring your sister some much needed relief, handle a few problems, offer some practical help, and perhaps provide a shoulder to cry on. You can also spend some quality time just visiting Mom and participating in some of the activities of her life. Not doing anything, just visiting.

But beware of the dangers. Your trip can easily turn into a family disaster. Your sister can resent what she thinks is your meddling – and your lack of concern during the months when you were not by Mom’s side. Since absence makes the heart grow fonder, your Mom can tend to glorify your presence. Your sister says she is best off staying at home. You think she needs to move to assisted living. You fight, Mom gets upset.

How can you avoid these problems? The friction is inevitable. But it can be alleviated. To start, you need to communicate. Talk regularly with your parent and the local caregiver. That way, you can share concerns and divide tasks before you arrive. And you won’t be so surprised at what you find.

Remember your role and your previously agreed-upon responsibilities. If you are not the primary caregiver, there are tasks you can manage from a distance. If you are the primary caregiver, how do you do everything during the limited time of your visit? We invite you to share how to plan in advance and set priorities once you arrive.