Whether you are an hour away or live in a different state, long-distance caregiving is often a challenge, especially because you want to be an integral part in the care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Learn as much as you can about your family member’s diagnosis and his or her wishes about the future. Ask to be a partner with the primary caregiver and determine where you can be most helpful in your family member’s care. Have regular conference call meetings with your family and designate roles and responsibilities for each of you.
Make sure all legal documents are in place, and assure that you are allowed access to your family member’s health progress by signing the appropriate HIPAA forms for medical releases of information of your family member.
Don’t underestimate the value of connecting through phone, FaceTime or Zoom calls or through social media. You can be a great support by making it a regular and scheduled practice to call and check on your loved one, and he or she will appreciate the concern and connection.
So many individuals with Alzheimer’s feel isolated and alone, and connecting to others provides a lifeline and a meaning and purpose in their lives. Even handwritten notes or cards sent in the mail can be little “pick-me-ups” for a family member with the disease living far away.
Though long-distance caregivers take on different roles, you can help with finances, money management or bill paying. You can offer financial assistance to curb costs of in-home care, offer to research resources, such as serving as an “information coordinator,” or send care packages and meal kits.
When you can arrange to travel and visit your family member, it will be an opportunity to relieve the primary caregiver for a while and also assess your loved one’s condition. Moreover, it is a time for you to nurture your relationship and build meaningful and memorable activities to do that are unrelated to being a caregiver.
Your family member will appreciate the gift of time, and you can arrange for enjoyable things to do. Plan activities around things that bring your loved one joy. That might be taking a drive, working in the garden, putting a puzzle together or preparing a special dinner. Whatever the activity, remember it is more about the process than the outcome.
Guilty feelings often arise for long-distance caregivers because they may feel they are not doing enough or not spending adequate time with the family member in need of care. Try to avoid these negative feelings and affirm to yourself that you are doing the best you can.
It can be helpful to join a support group for caregivers in your area to learn more about the Alzheimer’s journey, and also to share your personal experience in your present situation.