Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of families in the U.S. every year. Some research shows that approximately 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care to their loved one, with 15.7 million caregivers dedicated to patients with Alzheimer’s. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a difficult task. Organizing care long-distance is even harder. 15% of all caregivers in the U.S. (5-7 million people) are long distance, and reside an average of 450 miles from their care recipients. As a caregiver, taking care of a loved one’s safety, health, and well-being, can be incredibly difficult when you live in another city, state, or country.
No matter the distance, there are many steps you can take to alleviate anxiety, and help make decisions for your loved one. Although you might not always be there to provide hands-on care, there are other ways to provide meaningful support.
Through proper organization, coordination, and communication, you can help ensure that your loved one’s needs are being met. The following are some steps that you can take to ease your mind, and make sure that they are being properly cared for:
Build a Network
As they say, it takes a village, and when you have a solid foundation of people to support your loved one, you will have more peace of mind. Building a list of contacts and local resources is imperative to coordinating the care of your loved one. You don’t have to go at it alone. The following are groups of people you should have directly in your circle of care:
- Family, friends, and neighbors: Make a list of all the phone numbers and addresses of everyone in this network. If anyone is located close to your loved one, you can ask them to check in and report back every now and then.
- Doctors and Medical Professionals: Always keep in contact with the physician overseeing their care. Make sure the doctor has all of your contact information, and knows where to reach you in case of an emergency. You will also need to have your loved one sign a release to allow their doctor to communicate with you, as to not violate any confidentiality laws.
- Local Community: You can check with local organizations, churches, neighborhood groups, and volunteer organizations, to see what kind of resources they can help provide for your loved one. Some may offer free services like transportation, meal delivery, and companionship.
- In-Home Care Professionals: Many families decide to have an in-home care agency provide support and supervision for their loved one. In these situations, having good communication with the agency will benefit you and your loved one in case of emergencies. Part of the in-home care process includes an in-home care evaluation. This professional evaluation is a valuable tool because it outlines what type of support your loved one will need.
Evaluating Your Loved One’s Needs
As a long distance caregiver, every trip to see your loved one is more than just a visit. You should always take a visit as an opportunity to square away any important items on your “to-do” list. Visit are also valuable for reevaluating their current environment and making decisions about the next steps in their care.
Adjusting Care to Support Your Loved One
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, and over time, care will need to be adjusted. In early stages, individuals can usually live independently, but by the middle to late stages, they often require 24-hour supervision and care. Every time you visit, you need to assess the situation, to make sure they’re receiving the proper level of care.
- Early-Stage Care: During this stage, loved ones generally live alone, and you will have to ask some of the following questions when reassessing:
- Are the bills paid?
- Is there food in the fridge? Is it spoiled?
- Do people visit regularly?
- Is the home well kept?
- How is your loved one’s hygiene?
- Are they still able to safely drive?
- Middle to Late Stage: This is when it becomes too dangerous for an individual to live alone, and you have to be asking an entirely different set of questions during the reassessment process.
- Do they have safe and reliable transportation to doctor’s appointments and other events?
- Are they receiving the daily care they need, such as bathing, grooming, and dressing?
- Are they engaged in meaningful activities during free time?
- Is the living environment clean and are safety precautions being taken? Is there anything else that should be done before you leave?
How In-Home Care Can Help
As previously mentioned, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. This means that the care someone with Alzheimer’s requires will need to be adapted over time. In-home care is equipped to support individuals with Alzheimer’s manage their daily lives at any stage of the disease. More specifically, in-home care concentrates on helping someone with Alzheimer’s to complete important “Activities of Daily Living” (ADLs) such as eating, bathing, personal hygiene, toileting needs, and more. For example, an in-home care professional can provide companionship and supervision during the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and they will also be able to provide hands-on support with bathing, personal hygiene, toileting and all other personal care tasks as the disease progresses. There are also many benefits of in-home care for caregivers.
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, they can no longer take care of their business records, or maintain accurate paperwork. This is a relatively easy task for a long distance caregiver, compared to non-stop travel. Locate all insurance, financial, and legal documents for your loved one, including items like:
- Marriage or divorce decrees
- Birth certificate, social security, and other forms of identification
- Power of Attorney
- Bank accounts
- Insurance documents
- And anything else you deem important
Everything you collect should always be kept secure in a locked, fire-proof safe-deposit box, and you should make duplicate copies if you can.
Although it can be an incredibly challenging task, long-distance caregiving is a selfless job done out of love, and you should give yourself credit. Do not be hard on yourself for not living closer. As long as you follow these simple tasks, you can have sound mind knowing you did everything in your power to make sure your loved one was being cared for properly.
Contact Comfort Home Care For More Information
For more information about long distance caregiving and how in-home caregiving can help, contact Comfort Home Care by calling or sending us a message online today!