Dementia generally refers to a set of symptoms that can impact a person’s memory, reasoning, and social abilities, to a point where they cannot even perform their day-to-day activities independently. Dementia becomes more frequent as people age.
Many people live a healthy life, even in their nineties and even beyond, without showing any signs of dementia. Dementia can range from mild to very severe stage, where the patient’s brain cells are highly impacted, and the person living with dementia will eventually become dependent with ADLs/IADLs. Many of those living with dementia lose emotional control as their personalities and behavior change over time.
Alzheimer’s and associated dementias have a variety of causes, depending on the types of brain alterations that are occurring in one’s body. Although some brain abnormalities have been connected to some types of dementia, the fundamental reasons in most instances are still unknown. Uncommon genetic alterations have also been linked to dementia in a few cases.
Care Of Dementia Patients
Taking care of a friend or relative with Dementia disease is not an easy or enjoyable task. It becomes even more complicated when the patent is far away from you, e.g., parents. This distance brings extra obstacles while caring for them, as you cannot help them in day-day activities or keep an eye on them.
According to the Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia) Association and the American Alliance for Caretaking, around 12% of carers live more than an hour’s drive away from the patient.
Taking care of aging parents from afar is difficult; there’s no question about that. But, you cannot just sit; it’s better to act and help them from the best that you can do. This type of assistance/caretaking can range from aiding or helping with financial planning and scheduling in-home treatment for a caregiver or emergency planning.
A long-distance caregiver cares for an elderly friend, relative, or parent from afar, and there’s nothing to be shameful for, though it can be a stressful decision. Regardless of gender, income, age, social standing, or profession, anyone can take care from a distance.
In simple words, a long-distance carer is a person who lives an hour or more away from someone who requires your aid/assistance. With adequate planning, you may stay connected & take control of your loved one’s daily care; and technology has made that job much more manageable.
What’s The Plan?
Long-distance caring involves more than just regular phone conversations and scheduling few visits. The carer must create the framework for effective, knowledgeable caregiving to make a difference and help the parents as a long-distance carer. When it comes to being a long-distance carer, these are some initial steps. The following are a few of the most crucial points that must be taken into account:
- Gather Healthcare Information
- Evaluate What You Can Do
- Hire a Local Care Team
- Explore Different Living Arrangements
- Home Safety
- Have a Family Meeting
- Reassess Needs Often
- Plan Visits
- Have an Emergency Plan
- Get in the Medical Loop
- Use Tech to Stay in Touch
- Enjoy Your Time Together
Let’s read the crucial points in detail
#1. Gather The Parent’s Healthcare Information
If you don’t have any information regarding your elderly parent’s medical records, you won’t protect their health. Create a list of the family’s present and previous health issues, their medicines, and a list of contacts of their health personnel and information about healthcare insurance.
It is essential to collect these medical records because sometimes a new doctor may overlook signs or give prescriptions that can interfere with existing medications if you do not have a complete picture of the patient’s condition. This knowledge aids you as a caregiver and aids the doctors in providing the best treatment possible.
#2. Evaluate The Best Ways To Help
It’s completely OK if you can’t help your parents with everything; accept that it’s nothing wrong or a shame to be this way, but you can always find the best possible ways to help them.
Nobody can do everything. Accept that, and then consider what you’re capable of. What are your capabilities, and how can you use them?
For example, if you are good at managing things, then in some instances, you can assist your parents in financial matters such as bill payment and budgeting. You may also manage medical care, organize crucial paperwork, or get in touch with friends and neighbors to come or deliver meals when you’re far away.
Communicating with family members, locating mobility or house maintenance resources, investigating senior housing choices, including residential care, and providing emotional support are all useful options you can work on. You’ll be able to design a strategy that fills the gaps when you understand your qualities and what needs to be done.
#3. Hire A Local Care Team
You should also depend on neighborhood/local caregivers to provide your elderly parents with the hands-on support they require. However, if you leave the hiring of caregivers to your parents, they may be misused or exploited by evil people.
So, the best option is to choose proper nearby caregivers within their locality by simply interviewing them based on their capabilities. In some cases, your parents may altogether reject hiring a caregiver, but try to make them understand its importance and make them believe that their independence will not be snatched away.
When you hire help for your parents, you can rest assured that their pride will not stand in the way of your security. This also enables you to filter employees through vetting and interviews to select dependable caregivers.
#4. Explore Living Arrangements
Families can make things work in some circumstances by edging closer to one of the parents or maybe both. The households and even doctors believe that having the parents draw closer to the adult children makes good sense and is also an excellent way of better understanding within a family. Sometimes even a family’s condition necessitates local assistance.
If relocating is not an option, then in-home care could assist, whether full-time or part-time. Specific retirement communities offer 24-hour healthcare coverage, which helps in everyday routines, engaging them in programs, and activities, thus creating a social media platform to help combat isolation.
#5. Home Safety
If moving around is difficult, consider constructing ramps or chair lifts. Overload risks should be removed, such as extension cords and throw rugs. It is also essential to check for potential disaster places in the home if your parents live alone or even in an assisted living facility.
You should also help remove stacks of rubbish, papers, and knickknacks since these objects can confuse somebody with cognitive impairments. A simple collection of photos with family photos will also bring a smile to their faces each day.
#6. Have A Family Meeting
Take the family together for a trip occasionally, and have a conversation over the phone or via Skype or FaceTime daily to keep the whole family updated. This also gives them a sigh of relief that their kid is with them always and cares for them.
You must all be aware of the concerns and what the family desires to devise a strategy that considers everyone’s technical skills or commitments. This way, everyone understands how to do it and the best possible way to work/help the parents.
#7. Reassess The Plans And Update Them Regularly
Dementia like Alzheimer‘s is a progressive disease; the health and treatment will most probably change over time. You should visit them every weekend, hear them out, observe their activities and also take note of their mental improvements.
They may be independent in the early, milder stages, but you must offer personal assistance and support with the healthcare staff and make doctor’s appointments. Your parents may also require assistance with transportation, paying the bills, and housework. You may have to hire an in-home caregiver or contemplate relocating them to elderly care or a care facility at some point.
#8. Plan Visits
You must visit your loved one regularly. Consult the primary carer about the best time for your visit. Inquire about how you can assist them or give them a break, and learn what your beloved ones require.
Make an effort to enjoy spending time with loved ones. It can be anything as easy as going for just a drive or even to the movie, reading, card game, or merely having a breakfast date.
Consider the following factors when you go to determine:
- Is there food in the refrigerator? Is it fresh or spoiled?
- Are bills piling up?
- Are your parents grooming, bathing, and dressing appropriately?
#9. Have An Emergency Plan
You’ll need a strategy in the case your loved one suffers an accident or even another crisis so that you can reach out to them quickly. Establish a support system of people who can help you out when you’re away.
Maintain track of the parent’s neighbors’ contact details and their roles. You should maintain a backpack with amenities and essential clothing on hand, so you don’t have to step back and think about what to take during an emergency.
#10. Medical Loop
Obtain written authorization from your parent’s doctors to share medical information around you. Make an appointment with their primary care physician and neurologist.
Make a list of the medicines they’re using and their dosages, as well as their adverse effects. Learn about Alzheimer’s disease and its treatment because it’s essential to make yourself informed.
#11. Use Technology
Stay in touch with the parents via the use of technology. Many families plan teleconferences with physicians or senior care complex employees to acquire up-to-date data about their parent’s health. Get reports from neighbors who check on your parents. Phone calls are important ways to communicate.
When caring for elderly parents, traveling might be a problem. You may ensure that your loved one receives the assistance they require with some developing strategy and teamwork.
#12. Enjoy Some Time Together
Whether you visit every several months only or once every few months, you may feel pressed to get it all accomplished on that day: shopping, doctor’s appointments, house maintenance, and many others.
Based on their stage of dementia, your loved one may like watching a film with you, walking along the street, playing a strategy game, or playing. Try to observe them patiently and be aware of the disease. Plan your visit so that you may attend to urgent matters while still taking time to talk and interact with each other face-to-face.
These are the best possible ways that you can try to help your parents even if you live far away from them.
Long-distance caretakers can help in many ways to tackle the problems and demands of their parents. You can hire help, take unpaid time off from work, travel expenses, and more. It’s not necessary that an individual who is living 24*7 with their parents can only help them.
Keeping informed and confident that the person in need of care(or parents) is in-skilled hands is always the most challenging task the long-distance caretakers have confronted. That’s why a long-distance caregiver can’t function without communication and a good ground team.
Organization, coordination, and a certain degree of confidence in the local/hired caretaker without any close supervision are required to overcome the problems of caring. Gathering relatives, seeking support from the community, or coping with medicolegal specialists are all part of the process. The goal is to make the older person’s life genuinely happy and comfortable while retaining one’s sanity.
If you’re caring for aging parents from afar, just believe that everything is fine, and you will be effectively communicating with them. All you have to do is embrace your family’s circumstances, be willing to help services, and be honest about your limitations as well as your parent’s goals & requirements.