In a recent video conversation with my sister, Christine, we talked about the challenges of living close or far from a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. I live 4 miles from my parents and she lives 2,891 miles away – so we have the “close” and “far” covered.

We will also gave 6 tips to help from far away.  Watch the video and then take a look at our tips.  If you live close, you might find some ways you can ask your out-of-town support system for help.  If you are the out of town family or support system, here are ways you can offer to help.

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  1. Create a consistent time to call your loved one. As dementia progresses, routines they can count on become comforting, creating consistency in a life that is becoming more and more confusing. Creating a routine of calling at a certain time and day can really help and be a way for you to stay connected from a distance.
  2. Be phone support to those close to the situation. Having someone a little distanced from the drama and emotion can really help to think clearly and find solutions in times of stress.  It’s also helpful to have someone to debrief with when dealing with the emotions of the day to day…
  3. Do online legwork. Even though you aren’t in the same town, you can still hit the internet and look for resources that may be needed. Most businesses are online so while the people doing the day to day are doing there thing, you can find options for doctors, adult day care, respite care, transportation options and more.
  4. Acknowledge and appreciate the primary caregivers.  Sometimes just being thanked for the time I put in, or getting a card of appreciation or even flowers or a gift card make a huge difference!
  5. Visit when you can – especially for big changes. It isn’t easy to be physically present when you live far away but it can really help everyone. Big changes like moving someone to a home care situation are easier when everyone is involved and on the same page. The more support through emotional transitions the better.
  6. Watch the “big picture”.  Sometimes being far away allows you to see things that are happening that the people “in the trenches” don’t. Caregiver burnout is something often noticed first by those more removed from the situation. You will also notice changes in abilities and behaviors in your loved one more readily because of the time between visits. When you see things of concern, try to come up with some solutions and then discuss in an empathetic way.

Want more help to understand what is happening and how to stay connected to your loved one?

I am so thankful for the support of my sister and the rest of the family. It isn’t always easy but if you stay focused on the goal – to make sure your loved one is taken care of – you will find a way.

While no one can change the outcome of dementia or Alzheimer’s, I believe that with the right help and focus you can change the journey. I’d be honored to help you.

– Tara Reed