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Caring for Loved Ones from a Distance

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By Fiona Bromelow and Jen Haken in the UK

When your loved one is an adult, is still actively in their eating disorder and lives away from home, things can feel both better and worse. Better, because you no longer need to endure the torture of their ED behaviours that can cause upset in the house. Worse, because you love them, miss them and are terrified of what may happen in your absence.

You can never totally relax. Your emotions are in turmoil. You’re torn from wanting them with you to keep them safe and loving the peace.

Caring for your loved one from a distance at the best of times is hard. You don’t have eyes on and cannot see what’s happening. Talking by video call isn’t easy if they hate seeing themselves. Your imagination works overtime constantly thinking the worst.

COVID-19, Social Distancing and Being Too Far Away

Now that COVID-19 has plunged its virusy tentacles into humans, caring from a distance has reached a whole new level of worry. And a complete inability to visit our loved ones.

We must connect and communicate by all possible means. That’s true for everyone, not just those with eating disorders and other mental health illnesses. We must do all we can.

We’re all afraid, but fear is probably magnified tenfold for those with eating disorders depending on where in their recovery they are. Fully recovered people should manage to eat anything. Those still coping with limited safe foods, however, really struggled in the past few weeks, as this article explains. Not forgetting their struggles with isolation, anxieties and other issues they may have.

Coping in the UK

Here in the UK, lockdown has meant no travel unless essential. How does this impact us? Every family has different needs, but these are some issues that could affect us all:

  • Families may have other members who are vulnerable and/or at risk, such as elderly parents. Or spouses and other family members who are key workers. Adding to our worries, we may experience conflicting feelings about who to support first. Who’s the priority – your child, your parent or your spouse?

It’s important to allow time to yourself. Remember – you cannot look after anyone else, from a distance or in your own home, if you’re exhausted. Look for help, check F.E.A.S.T.’s forums and groups, and don’t be ashamed to ask for or receive help.

  • With NHS staff valiantly focusing on the virus, other illnesses are less of a priority. However, some CAMHS and AMHS are carrying out phone, WhatsApp and video appointments where possible. Every area is different, so do check yours if you haven’t already. Even with adult children, you can still notify AMHS of any concerning behaviours you’re aware of despite confidentiality issues not allowing them to share in return.
  • The 2014 Care Act, which obliges local authorities to provide care for vulnerable people, has put in place a range of measures to help the care system manage these new pressures.
  • Sectioning may be necessary when someone’s physical and mental health reaches a critical state, meaning they will be taken into hospital involuntarily. However, the government has had to make emergency changes to the Mental Health Act for it to function effectively through this pandemic.

F.E.A.S.T. has a vast amount of information about eating disorders. Whether you are tackling your loved one’s eating disorder at home or from a distance (if they’re allowing you to be involved), you still need support. Check the website for information, links to a live chat line, email and telephone. Someone is always around to help and advise you.

You’re not alone! We’re here to help.


  1. Daryl

    Thanks so much for this article Fiona & Jen! Such good information for those in the UK in particular, but also universal feelings and experiences and available resources for supporting a family member with an eating disorder during these topsy-turvy times.

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