By Jan Hanneke, LMSW
Did you know, that the distance between the East Coast and the West Coast at its widest part is about 2,800 miles!
If you’re anything like me, driving farther than 60 miles can be a challenge. So what if you are an adult living away from your parent with dementia? Many times I hear that the “long distance caregiver” is at a loss on how to help their siblings and parents from so far away. While you may not be able to help in the same ways that in-town family can contribute, there are tasks that can be completed from a distance. Below are a few ways you can help:
Be an investigator:
It may be hard for the primary caregiver to ask for help. Reach out to that person and start the conversation on what you can do to help. You may have more time to explore possible Adult Day Programs in your loved one’s area, look into new doctors, or make phone calls to inquire about alternative care and living options. These research tasks often seem overwhelming to primary caregivers who are providing 24/7 hands-on care.
Explore your strengths:
What are the areas in your personal and professional life that are strengths for you. Are you a great organizer? You can set up a digital calendar to create a caregiving schedule. Are you savvy with the computer and finances? You can be the one establish online bill paying for your parent. Are you a gift giver? You can purchase meals to be delivered to your parents’ house on a monthly basis. Utilize your strengths to support your family.
Sometimes all the primary caregiver needs is reassurance that they are doing a good job. Caregiving is an overwhelming and underappreciated job. If you can make a daily phone call to encourage and thank the primary caregiver, this may help her/him feel supported and energized to continue the important work of caregiving. When you make regular phone calls to your family member with dementia, you provide a meaningful activity for that person and a brief moment of respite for the caregiver. Phone calls are a gift!