"Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease last year," Carol told me. " She's still doing pretty well but I know that will change. My sister looks in on her daily since she lives just around the corner from mom. I live in Chicago. That's a long way from Houston where Mom is! "
The truth is there are a lot of things that a long distance caregiver can do to help.
Support The Primary Caregiver
Even if you do not always agree with their choices. Try to find ways to help. Understand that the time you think they are spending caring for Mom is probably a lot more than you realize. If mom is still living at home or with your sibling offer to pay for a caregiver to come in a few times a week to help.
" My sister refuses any help with mom. She says the caregivers do everything wrong." Susan wailed. " She complains there is so much to do but she will not let anyone help."
This is not that uncommon. The primary caregiver and their parent or spouse form a unique bond. Especially when the person being cared for has Alzheimer's. The person with Alzheimer's may feel safe with their caregiver. And the caregiver is protective of them. Letting someone else take over may feel uncomfortable for both parties.
So Think Outside The Box
Okay, if you sister will not allow you to hire a home caregiver what can you do to relieve her burden?
Buy gift cards for restaurant meals that can be delivered.
Hire a Concierge service to run errands for her and your mom
Hire a weekly cleaning service
Offer To Handle the Finances, bill paying and money management
hire someone to take care of the yard
Call to see how both the caregiver and the care recipient are doing
Be the Coordinator—research health problems or medicines, help navigate through a maze of new needs, and clarify insurance benefits and claims
Listen... This is the most important thing you can do. just listen. Don't offer advice unless asked, don't try to fix anything just listen and acknowledge that you heard and you are there.
Is it Time for a Move?
As time goes on the disease will become more difficult for family caregivers to manage. This will be a really difficult time for a caregiver. They will need to let go of being the primary caregiver. It will not be easy to let go of that control. The caregiver often feels that they are letting the care recipient down.
" I told Mom I would never put her in a facility or a home! " Steve said. " I feel as if I am really letting her down. She cared for me all of those years."
Just like a painter steps away from his masterpiece from time to time a caregiver needs to be able to step away from the situation. Likewise, it is easy to offer solutions and advice when you are not dealing with the everyday consequences.
Step In and Allow The Primary Caregiver to Step Back
You may need to take that FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) time off. Come for an extended two or three week visit so you can take over for a while. This will give you the opportunity to see what is really going on and allow the primary caregiver take a breath. By getting completely away from the situation your sibling will be able to think clearly.
At the same time you will get a better vision of the day to day needs your aging parent has. Until you are in the trenches for a period of time you will never truly understand.
Do your research. If you needed to move mom in a hurry where would you go? Who could help? Tour facilities close to where you would want to place mom. Ask questions. Try to encourage your sibling to join a local support group. Call the Alzheimer's Association. They always have workshops and conferences that offer a lot of solutions.
Your sibling may be stuck and may not make a change unless a crisis forces her to. By researching and preparing ahead you will be in a much better position. Knowing where to go and who can help will lift a huge burden from both you and your sibling's shoulders.
Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997. Email Her Today for more information.
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