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Apr 29, 2019

How Long-Distance Caregivers Can Support to Their Loved Ones

by Gary Skole

If you care for someone who has Alzheimer’s, you know that life can be a roller coaster ride. When you don’t live nearby, it can be even more of a challenge.

If you care for someone who has Alzheimer’s, you know that life can be a roller coaster ride. Some days are better than others, and even on good days, there is always that worry about your loved one’s well-being. When you don’t live close enough to be there all the time, it can be even more of a challenge to make sure everything is taken care of.

Checking In

If you’re able to visit your loved one on occasion, this is the best time to check in on how they’re doing, which is especially important if they live at home. Reader’s Digest gives several telltale signs that may indicate your loved one needs assistance. If you see dramatic changes to their home, such as things that are obviously out of place, piles of unopened mail or new medications, or if your loved one seems to be letting their hygiene slide - these are all concerning signs. For someone with Alzheimer’s, this may mean they need a home health aid or care in a residential facility.

Even though you can’t be there in person most of the time, there are other ways you can check in from wherever you are. One of the best things you can do is help coordinate your loved one’s medical needs, starting with keeping up to date on their healthcare coverage. Medical plans change annually, and there may be times when it’s best to make adjustments. Depending on your loved one’s healthcare needs, a Medicare Advantage plan may be worth looking into. An Advantage plan offers additional coverage for dental, vision care and prescriptions that your senior loved one might need. Alternatively, a Medigap plan could help supplement any shortfalls if your senior loved one has Original Medicare.

Another way you can help coordinate medical needs so that nothing falls through the cracks is to open the lines of communication between yourself, your loved one, and health practitioners. According to NBC News, the best strategy is for your loved one to use just one medical group. If they do have practitioners across groups, advocate for your loved one by making sure practitioners are communicating and that medical records are shared.

Finding Solutions

You can also help find solutions for any issues that arise. If your loved one is still living at home, you may want to make a visit or hire someone who can go into their home and make adaptations. Someone with Alzheimer’s will be happier living in a home with fewer distractions that can be confusing, like busy wallpaper or lots of clutter. Do everything you can to improve safety as well, such as securing area rugs and increasing lighting. Knowing these safety measures are in place will give you peace of mind that your loved one’s environment fits their needs.

For long-distance caregivers, using new technology is another way to make sure your loved one can live safely and happily at home. There are devices that help with medication reminders, sensors that detect if a stove has been left on, and sensors that track a person’s activity and routines. These are just a few of the many smart tech devices that help you assist with your loved one’s care from a distance. You can also stay better connected with video chats. Nothing can replace being with your loved one in person, but being able to talk and see each other over the phone gives you an extra tool for checking in and reducing the risk of loneliness.

Getting Extra Help

If you still feel like providing the best care is more than you can do from a distance, it may be worth getting extra help. A geriatric care manager can assess your loved one’s situation and help coordinate a plan for care. They can also be an extra set of eyes and ears to reassure you that your loved one is being well-cared-for by home aids or in a nursing facility.

Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s is a challenge for any individual, no matter where you live. Make sure to use all available tools to make this situation easier for everyone. You will always be concerned for your loved one, but these tools will help you manage care with more confidence and assurance that they are staying healthy and happy.

About the Author

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Gary Skole

Gary is a founder of AlzBetter with decades of experience improving care for patients with challenging healthcare needs at home. He is a published author and frequent speaker on Dementia, Transitional Care Management, and Patient Engagement.