How Neighbors Can Help with Your Role of Long-Distance Caregiver

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Guest blog post by Claire Wentz

When distance keeps you apart, caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s becomes a particularly daunting proposition. However, by connecting with someone close by, you can work together to overcome the miles, and provide the care and support your loved one needs. Here’s how to bridge the distance, even if it feels as if you’re worlds apart.

Hands-on help

Long-distance caregiving presents unique challenges, and nothing can help as effectively as connecting with people local to your loved one. Find a few people you trust and that your loved one is comfortable with. Ideally, your list will include at least one neighbor, so start gathering contact information. Talk through possibilities together, and if neighbors aren’t a realistic choice, consider other friends your loved one enjoys and are nearby, or have routine interaction with your senior.

If your senior has misgivings about you “meddling” or is otherwise disagreeable, there are ways to talk about the setup that can put minds at ease. As you build the network, frame connections as giving the other parties something to do or helping a friend feel less concerned. This way, seniors can feel that they are doing this on behalf of the friend, rather than the other way around.

Coverage that counts

As U.S. News points out, your senior’s caregiving neighbor will have limited access to medical records, so it’s important that no matter how wonderful that connection is, you must stay involved. And some surveys indicate many seniors do without things like dental or vision care because the expense is beyond their resources. Medicare covers things like hospital stays and some basic outpatient needs, but many seniors need to fill in other expenses through Medigap or Medicare Advantage. When deciding between insurance options, examine what your senior uses, such as specific prescriptions, what physicians are in plan networks, and comparing plans in detail.

Build an electronic bridge

Technology is making the world smaller all the time, and when it comes to long-distance caregiving, electronics can help substantially. After all, even if the next door neighbor is very involved and communicates well, there will be times you will want to communicate directly, or when that person is not available. If your loved one is intimidated by tech tools, there are some wonderful solutions. The Morning Call suggests finding some gadgetry designed especially for seniors in the way of smartphones and tablets with easy-to-use interfaces.  Smart home technology can also keep your loved one’s home more navigable, and let you know when something is off. There are even wearable sensors, using services that contact you and/or emergency personnel if trouble should arise.

When It’s Time for Assisted Living

There might come a time when your senior must move to a memory care setting. While this can be a difficult choice to make, the safety, comfort and care of your loved one is important as their disease progresses. Even if your loved one is currently able to live independently, it’s a good idea to tour local facilities and get an idea of where your senior would make the easiest transition. Of course, pricing is important too, and communities in Phoenix vary widely, with A Place for Mom noting costs can run anywhere from $1,500 to $8,250. While cost is a crucial factor, don’t let it be the only thing that determines your choice. At the end of the day, you both want peace of mind when it’s time to transition.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s from far away is tough, but with a connection close by, you can feel better about the situation. Neighbors and friends can lend a hand in important ways, and you can fill in other gaps with support services and tools. Long-distance caregiving has unique challenges, but a healthy network makes all the difference.