What’s The Latest? Family Communication Long-Distance


By Mary Lou

When my father died in 1998, the preferred method of voice communication was still telephone. During his illness, we played the telephone game. Whenever there was a change, or even just to let us know things were okay, my mother would get on the phone and begin the conversation with the seven of us. We would offer to make a few phone calls; and, once in a while, one of us would call a sibling, but Mom always felt she should be the one talking to each of us. In between would be calls from friends wondering how things were going. How draining it is to repeat all those details, especially when you are already exhausted from the cares and concerns with your loved one!

Fast forward to 2010. When my mother was recently hospitalized, texts and e-mail made updates instantaneous. Furthermore, there was one person communicating—me. That way, there was only one message going out with one set of details. It was also very easy to answer questions such as, “How can I help?” or “How are you doing?” Just enter and reply to all.

After Dad died and Mom was living alone, we set up a loose schedule of checking in. The long distance siblings had their certain day or night to call and chat, and I was certain to let them know her routine so they wouldn’t catch her during Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. I checked in every day with a quick phone call and, if need be, I know I can always call one of my two brothers who live in town to help out.

Through the maturing of my parents, and from the fine folks I work with at Hospice of the Red River Valley, I have learned that often one sibling takes the lead in communicating to the others in times of family challenges and crises. I have also learned that one sibling usually “takes charge.” I am the oldest of the seven, and so whether by birth order or personality style, and also because I have always lived by my parents, I think I can claim that charge. I have also learned that siblings who don’t live nearby (mine are from California to Virginia and Maryland) often feel disconnected and somewhat helpless because they aren’t here to help out. In those instances, their role can be to call or send a card.

Another thing I have learned is that those needing the help aren’t likely to take the initiative in asking for it.

The bottom line is that staying connected as a family is now easier than ever. And, although technology get an occasional bad rap, when a loved one is ill, or when there is great joy to share, technology has made it so much easier. Here’s to SEND.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.