Long Distance Caregiving for People with Alzheimer's
Long distance care coordination for relatives and friends of people with Alzheimer's is becoming more common. The main reason is that over the past few decades the traditional role of women in caring for the sick and infirm in their families has changed as households have become reliant on their work income. This, combined with greater geographical mobility, has meant inter-state and even care coordination from abroad has become much more common.
I have recently found myself in this situation. My father, a very independent man in his eighties, has become increasingly frail and now requires more help. Setting up such a program of care is difficult. I had to find the available services in his area that are the best for him and what he wants. Having done this I had to negotiate some sort of agreement with him over what is practical. This, of course, is only the beginning, as I now need to monitor and change his care plan as circumstances change. As my father has had frequent small strokes, these changes can be sudden and quite dramatic.
My personal and professional advice to anyone in a similar situation is this: What you want is a reliable, professional, flexible, responsive service from an organization or organizations that have staff who are well trained, well equipped and, most importantly, who you can trust. You want your loved one to be cared for, if not by you, by someone who will give them the type of care you might.
In America, as in countries all over the world, more and more people are living longer. According to the Alzheimer's Organization there are between 1 and 1.25 million long-distance caregivers in the U.S.A. Most live over 2 hours away from a relative who requires help with practical care. One of the more recent roles to have developed is that if the professional care coordinator.
What Care Coordinators Services should Offer
- Care coordinators should bring experience. They come from a background of social work and from nursing in physical and mental heath care and should have qualifications that reflect this.
- They will assess the situation, the needs and wishes of your relative and yours as the long distance caregiver.
- They should have local knowledge of services, aids, activities as well as care facilities such as day care centers and respite care homes that may be required later.
- Care coordinators are able to employ suitable staff for someone with Alzheimer's disease. This can provide an extra safety net to help prevent elder abuse. Care staff with little or no training working in a person's home can present a danger to people with dementia who are vulnerable. As people with Alzheimer's may not be able to express themselves effectively, care coordinators should be trained to suspect and identify abuse if it ever does occur.
- Care coordinators can liaise with the doctor and respond to any care or treatments recommended.
Care coordinators can act for the long distance caregiver by having an ongoing role in monitoring care provided by various service bodies. Effectively they act as an advocate and protector for your relative.
Of course there is a price to pay, literally, and the coordination of care packages is not cheap. The local Alzheimer's chapter may be able to find cheaper local services and access charitable bodies that can also provide help and support.
Long distance caregiving is an active, ongoing process, that requires communication and a commitment. If all these ingredients are in place it is an effective and efficient way of supporting a loved one.