Arranging help from a distance
Arranging for help from a distance requires planning. You may not be familiar with the services that your *parent’s community has to offer. You may have little time during your visits to arrange for care and make sure it is delivered adequately.
Here are some suggestions:
Find out what resources are available in your relative's community. Establish contacts with a doctor, faith leader, social worker or someone in their community.
Arrange a meeting
Include your parent with the disease, his spouse, your family members and professionals who are helping. Think and talk about all the options. Recognize that your parent can feel frustrated and inadequate by his inability to make these decisions for himself. If he has little insight into his needs, the discussion should include ways of making the necessary changes easier and more comfortable. And also be sure to talk about what role each family member might play.
If your sibling or another relative is nearby, work together to arrange for help. Give your emotional support even when you are not on the scene.
Arrange for a regular check
Ask a friend or neighbor to look in on your parent and let you know if problems arise. Arrange for a daily call from a "telephone reassurance" service or sign up for Letter Carrier's Alert, a service in which the delivery person notes whether a person has picked up his mail. Any of these may help you in knowing how your parent is getting along.
Install an emergency response system
This usually involves a device the person wears which can be used to signal for help through the telephone. The signal goes to an emergency service or a central switchboard that will immediately check on the person and summon help if it is needed. But never rely entirely on an emergency response system. Maintain personal contact too.
* The assistance provided by such a device may decrease as the disease progresses and your parent's ability to use the device declines.
Arrange for support services
Programs such as home-delivered meals, hairdressing, homemakers, transportation or adult day programs may be available to help. If you are planning a visit to arrange services, call ahead for appointments with agency staff.
Make legal and financial arrangements
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias does not signify that the person is presently incompetent, but it is a warning that she will gradually lose mental competency. The period between diagnosis and incompetence is the time when wills and powers of attorney can be put in place. These will ensure that the ability to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the person with dementia can remain within the family. It is advisable to discuss these issues as soon as possible with a lawyer. Together you may decide on a review of, or preparation of, a will and powers of attorney along with instructions on the use of these documents.
How can the Alzheimer Society help?
The Alzheimer Society is always an excellent resource whether you are giving care from around the corner or 2,000 kilometres away. Chapters and associations across North America and around the world are aware of services available in their areas and can offer information, support and referral services.
Contact with a Society in your parent's community will put you in touch with people who are aware of the issues of giving care. They also are familiar with the local agencies and individuals who can be of assistance to you and your parent.
Caregivers – near and far – are important. It is vital to your parent that you maintain your ability to provide care by taking care of yourself.
Contact the Alzheimer Society in your community. Your will find there are others who understand your concerns and are ready to give support and assistance.
**Since the relative needing help is often a parent, we will refer to the distant relative as "parent" and the caregiver as the "adult child." The information also holds true for others within the family who have different relationships.