Tips for long-distance Alzheimer's caregiving

For many adult children whose aging parents are not living in the same city or even in the same state, the well being of their loved one can be a stressful topic. And this is especially true when a parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing that a parent is so far away but not knowing about their current condition – mental or physical – can be more than troubling.
In the Chicagoland area, however, there are multiple Freedom Home Care facilities with caregivers at quick disposal to a patient. With locations in Hinsdale, Highland Park, Buffalo Grove, Oak Brook and in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, out-of-town families can rest assured that their loved one has a dedicated person to rely on.
However, there are some measures that can be handled from afar. According to Angela Heath, director of the Eldercare Locator Hotline of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and author of “Long-Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide for Far Away Caregivers,” there are 10 strategies to employ.
Here is a summary of Heath’s advice, courtesy of
1. Get organized 
Maintain a care log to keep track of important information.
2: Identify your informal network 
Ask for help from people in your loved one's community. Ask relatives, neighbors, longtime family friends and members of religious, civic and social organizations to call you if they suspect a problem. Installing a webcam in your loved one's home and equipping him or her with an emergency necklace or bracelet should they need help are also important measures to take.
3. Investigate travel alternatives
Be prepared to “care commute,” which means to investigate travel options in advance. Remember that you may be eligible for discounts when buying bus or train tickets if you disclose that it's an emergency.
4. Discuss legal and financial issues
Although difficult to talk about, ironing out legal and financial is

sues early on will help ensure that your loved one maintains decision-making authority even when incapacitated. It also lessens family disagreements and protects family resources.
5. Take care of necessary paperwork 
Find, copy and safely store legal, financial and insurance documents. This includes birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce decrees, wills and power of attorney documents as well as bank accounts, titles, sources of income and obligations, and insurance papers. Review everything for accuracy and update them if necessary.
6. Tap into the aging network 
Contact the local department on aging in your relative's community to help you identify helpful services. Use the National Eldercare Locator Service at (800) 677-1116 to find local aging agencies.
7. Develop a plan of care 
If possible, bring the family together for a meeting. Decide with your loved one what his or her primary needs are, who can provide assistance and what community resources would help. Summarize your agreement in writing. Keep in mind that family difficulties are typical. You may need to bring in a family therapist or social worker to help.
8. Adjust your plan of care when necessary
Be aware that your care plan may need to be altered. Your loved one's needs may change at any moment. Use your care log to deal with changes.
9. Explore relocation issues
Primary questions are when, who and where.
When: Relocation is appropriate when a health professional recommends a change, your loved one needs 24-hour care, his or her safety is at risk, or the home does not meet fire or safety standards. Other reasons may be less obvious.
Who: Should you or your loved one relocate? Examine the financial and emotional costs.
Where: There are many options for senior housing. Contact your local department of aging for assistance.
10. Take care of yourself 
Caregiving can be taxing. Maintain good health, make time for yourself, set limits and allow others to help.