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Tips for Long Distance Caregivers

Do you have a parent or grandparent living with dementia? Do you live in another city or even a different country than your loved one? If so, you know how difficult it can be to stay connected. You may feel guilty for being so far away, and wish you were closer and able to help more. Hopefully, you are fortunate enough to have siblings or other relatives nearby who care for the person, so you can rest easy knowing they are not alone and that their needs are being met.

However, just because you are at a distance, it does not excuse you from being a caregiver or a member of the caregiving team. Caregiving is hard work, time consuming, and can be emotionally and physically taxing. Everyone who loves the person living with dementia, should be prepared to contribute to the person’s care so that one person doesn’t have to do it all.

How can you help when you are on the other side of the world? Call a meeting with everyone who is involved with caring for your loved one and acknowledge each person as a member of the team. Make a list of all the tasks or caregiving requirements that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. Discuss who is best suited to helping with each task based on their strengths or abilities. Make a formal agreement in terms of who will do what and put it in writing, so everyone is clear on the assigned roles.

Here are five tips for how long-distance caregivers can help:

  1. Keep track of what the person may need for clothing or other personal items. Shop online and have the items shipped directly to your loved one.

  2. Send photographs, greeting cards and other small gifts on holidays or any day of the year. Doing so helps to keep you connected to the person and contributes to the person’s mental and emotional well-being. A surprise letter or package in the mail may brighten their day even when they don’t remember who you are.

  3. If you can, contribute financially to the person’s care. It depends on your parent’s or grandparent’s financial situation but undoubtedly, the primary caregiver is paying out of pocket for some expenses.

  4. Don’t forget to ask how the other caregivers are doing. Be sure to thank them and show your appreciation for the excellent care that they give to your loved one. Make sure they get respite breaks at least a couple of times a year.

  5. Continue to communicate with the primary caregiver on an ongoing basis. Establish a regular time that you will meet by phone, Skype or Facebook. When it comes to dementia, needs are constantly changing so be prepared to take on new action items. If the person seems overwhelmed and you are not clear how you can help, ask “what can I do?”

Whether you live near or far, be creative and find ways to help! With today’s technology, it is easy for everyone to be involved. Caregiving should be a shared responsibility because it takes a village to care for a loved one living with dementia!

Do you have questions about an elderly loved one's care? Kimbrough Law may be able to offer some insight. Just give us a call at 706.850.6910.

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