We live in a mobile society. It’s no longer the norm for families to live in the same town or state. Our families can be spread across the globe. That, in conjunction with our recently released 2012 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures report that states 800,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s live alone, could be the reason that our Helpline (800.272.3900) is getting more calls from ‘long-distance caregivers.’
A long-distance caregiver is someone who spends significant amount of time or money to make a trip to their loved one or uses vacation time to regularly check-in with their loved one. A long-distance caregiver may also rely on friends and neighbors local to their loved one to find out what’s going on.
All caregiving has its rewards and challenges. Living far away from your loved one can complicate caregiving but it is possible to successfully manage caregiving from a distance. Here are some strategies:
Whenever possible, plan ahead. Organize and have copies of legal and financial papers. Know insurance plans, bank account numbers and schedules of regular expenses, including login names and passwords for anything paid for online or electronically.
Educate yourself on your loved one’s disease or medical condition and know their abilities. Communicate with your loved one’s doctor, keeping in mind you may need a Power of Attorney for Healthcare or HIPAA release form to be given medical information. Know your loved one’s medications, including doses and schedules of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Establish a local support network. Have the contact information for friends, neighbors, religious organizations or clubs and associations your loved one belongs to. Know the telephone numbers for the local Area Agency on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association chapter, senior center, and long-term care ombudsman. If possible, hire a Geriatric Care Manager to coordinate care locally.
Have a family or care team meeting – regularly, when there’s a change in condition, or in an emergency situation. One benefit of all the current telecommunication technology is that care teams can meet virtually. Technology also lets caregivers manage group efforts with online calendars and coordination services such as Lotsa Helping Hands.
Remember to take care of yourself. Develop effective stress management techniques. Exercise, eat properly, do something nice for yourself. Attend a caregiver support group; there are in-person, telephone, and online groups that will provide emotional support, education, and caregiving strategies.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but having the information for at least one, two, or three of these categories, will go a long way in helping you cope with long-distance caregiving.
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