Caregiving

Everyday tips to make your life less stressful and more enjoyable as a caregiver.

Tips: The art of long-distance caregiving

Tips: The art of long-distance caregiving

Caregiving for someone in your own city or home who lives with Alzheimer’s is challenging enough; however does one manage long-distance caregiving?

It’s extraordinarily complicated.

You feel guilty. How can the personal support workers who come in to toilet, dress, bathe and feed your parent possibly be as loving and cheerful as you are?

Maybe your relative or in-law is close enough that you try to drive over once or twice a month. Maybe it’s a flight situation, to spell off a relative.

You love your family and want to keep in touch, but it’s hard to talk to someone with dementia on the phone.Caring From A Distance is dedicated to the needs of long-distance caregivers for many health conditions, not just Alzheimer’s. It connects some 7-million far-off caregivers with local resources, support services, counseling, a library on issues from financial planning to end of life care, and an online “Family folder” where you store information and access from any computer.

Keeping track of the paperwork alone is a trial. And it’s nigh impossible to manage in-home support from far away. What if your brothers or sisters won’t help, or you don’t have any?

Here are 9 points to ease your worries and help smoothe the long-distance caring journey, from HealthCommunities.com and other sources.

  1. Provide a cell phone if he or she doesn’t already have one. Plan on spending a good chunk of time explaining the phone’s features and programming some important numbers into the speed-dial function. You will likely have to re-explain the features. Find the simplest, most user-friendly phone you can.
  2. The Mayo Clinic suggests staying in touch by sending your loved one digital movies of yourself. Sending cards. And setting aside a time each day or week for phone calls.
  3. Learn how to talk on the phone with someone who has Alzheimer’s.
  4. Take full advantage of your visits: Check to see how mom or dad are doing. Are there piles of laundry and unopened mail lying around? Has he or she been ignoring personal hygiene?
  5. Check for potential hazards, like unlocked cupboards full of medications, cleaning liquids and solvents; or loose rugs that could contribute to falls.
  6. Keep a record of your older relative’s social security number, bank account, credit card numbers, insurance policies, deeds, investments, and wills (including a living will and other advance directive).
  7. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager. To locate one of these professionals, contact the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (520.881.8008; www.caremanager.org).
  8. If the demands become overwhelming, you may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave as authorized by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The law covers employers with 50 or more employees.
  9. nia-cv_sofarawayGet a copy of So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving, a very useful guide produced by the National Institute on Aging. As the NIA site says: Caregiving “can be helping Aunt Lilly sort through her medical bills or thinking about how to make the most of a weekend visit with Mom.I t can include checking the references of an aide who’s been hired to help your grandfather or trying to take the pressure off your sister who lives in the same town as your aging parents.”


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Susan Grimbly

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