Looking after someone from a distance can be challenging, as you cannot visit regularly, and it is harder to respond to issues quickly.
What is caring from a distance?
Caring from a distance is when you support and help someone from afar. It could be when the person with dementia is living alone, in a care facility or hospital, during times of COVID restrictions, living overseas, etc.
There are lots of ideas for how you can help support the person.
Supporting a person with dementia living at home:
Regular phone calls/txt messages, to offer social connection, support, and reassurance. Check on the person’s welfare during these phone calls. Check they have sufficient food in the house, are they remembering to take their medications, routinely securing the house at nights, etc.
Provide emotional support by phone, email, post letters/post cards, send ‘care parcels’, or video calls.
Encourage family/whanau and friends to also keep in regular contact with the person.
Paying their bills. Assisting with setting up on-line payments of regular bills.
Arranging delivery of on-line food shopping and other essentials.
Arranging on-line delivery of medical prescriptions. EG Zoom online pharmacy.
Contact GP on the person’s behalf if you have medical concerns.
Phone calls to remind the person of appointments.
Arranging with a supportive neighbour to put their rubbish out.
Help the person to link into appropriate supports: eg: St John’s Caring Caller, delivery of Emergency Food Parcels, Age Concern Accredited Volunteer Visitor Service and Age Concern Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service.
Ensure you keep update medical information about the person: eg: copies of medical reports, current medications and dosage, COVID vaccination status, name and phone numbers of the person’s medical team: eg GP’s, Needs Assessor, Dementia Waikato Advisors. Information re previous medical issues.
Consider setting up a ‘Life Tube’-a small container which is stored in the persons fridge, containing their basic personal information and medical notes. Available from Age Concern
Consider setting up a lock box outside the person’s house containing a house key-to assist emergency services to access the home.
Consider if the person needs to have an electric blanket replaced with an electric blanket which has an automatic ‘off’ timer switch.
Does the person need their medications in Blister Packs etc. to assist them with remembering to take them correctly.
Consider assistive technology to help the person with their everyday lives. Eg: Memory Clocks, personal alarms, sensors that monitor for falls, etc.
Set up a written list of contact names/phone numbers in large print size and leave by the person’s landline for ease of reference. Also-write the Emergency Services phone number at the top of this list: 111.
Consider if the person would benefit from having clear signs (either in writing or clear pictures) to act as memory prompts. EG: Remember to lock this door when leaving the house, the library is shut due to COVID rules, remember to take your pills, etc.
Each time you visit, reassess the home situation. Are smoke alarms in working area, check fridge contents, check medications have been taken as prescribed. Does the person appear to be their usual self in terms of appearance, weight, behaviour, and general well-being. Check if their rubbish has been collected and if the house is in a reasonably clean state.
Caring from a distance: when the person lives in a care centre, hospital, or hospice.
- Find out the routines of the centre, so that you can contact the person at the most convenient times.
- Ask staff re special events, eg: visiting choir-so that you can speak with them about it.
- Set up times to regularly phone or video call. Ask centre staff if they are able to assist with setting up video sessions with family/friends.
- Send letters, post cards, care parcels, photos of family members, etc.
Staying in regular contact
Staying in contact with people with dementia can be very reassuring for them, and something that they look forward to. Having regular times for phone calls or visits can help reduce the risks associated with social isolation and anxiety and can help the person with orientation as it becomes part of their routine.
Caring for yourself
Taking care of yourself is important. Caring from a distance can mean juggling many things-you may be working remotely and juggling children at home, and home-based school activities. There is a lot of information and support available for you. Be realistic about what you are able to provide. Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help. Speak with your family and employer re what it involves supporting the person with dementia from a distance and see is there is anything they can do to assist you.