Providing Long-Distance Caregiving
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), anyone living an hour or more away from a family member with Alzheimer’s or another dementia who needs care is considered a long-distance caregiver.
Family members who live far away but want to be involved in caring for their loved one can help with such things as finances, scheduling medical appointments, and providing emotional support and respite for the primary caregivers.
If you are working as a team with your siblings, decide who will handle what tasks based on your individual strengths.
Questions to consider, says the NIA, could include:
- Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and relaying the info to other family members?
- Are you a numbers person who would be most suited to paying bills and handling other financial concerns?
- Are you the family handy person, able to fix anything that breaks down?
- Are you the natural family leader, good at supervising and coordinating the others?
- Are you the researcher, skilled at uncovering information and sharing it with your siblings?
- Are you the person who would be most adept at arranging professional caregivers, home health and nursing aides, or locating care for your loved one in assisted living or long-term care?
Each family member should also consider their limits, says the NIA. As a long-distance caregiver:
- Consider how often you can afford to both emotionally and financially travel to see your loved one.
- Are you able to remain calm when communicating from a distance, whether that is with other caregivers or your loved one.
- How will long-distance caregiving impact your work and home life?
- Are you able to provide respite care on occasion for the primary caregiver?
- Are you able to contribute financial help in the care of your loved one?
The Alzheimer’s Association adds these tips for long-distance caregiving:
- Reassess care needs during each visit. Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the care needs of your loved one will change over time. Assess the situation and discuss the situation with the primary caregiver so that appropriate adjustments can be made.
- Maintain good communication with family caregivers that includes regular discussions of both their needs and the needs of the person being cared for.
- If your loved one is in assisted living or long-term care, schedule regular discussions with the physician or managing nurse to get updates, and stay in touch with care staff and friends who visit your loved one.
- Gather important information in one place in case it’s needed unexpectedly: contact info for medical providers, pharmacies, neighbors and friends, along with financial and legal documents.
The Alzheimer’s Association also notes that it is important to be kind to yourself. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias can be overwhelming whether you are the primary caregiver or are providing care assistance from a distance. Connect with others who are in similar situations through the Alzheimer’s Association’s online community at alzconnected.org to ask questions and share information.
Mary Bates, MS, CT, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of The Morrison Communities.
Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email email@example.com. Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column.