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10 tips for long-distance Alzheimer’s disease care

If a relative receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and you live many miles away, being a long-distance carer can be a challenge.

Here are some tips adapted from the book, Long-Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide for Far Away Caregivers, by Angela Heath.

Get organised

Keep track of important information in a care diary.

Establish an informal network

Ask for help from people who live in the same area as the person with Alzheimer’s disease, such as relatives, neighbours, long-time family friends, and members of religious, civic and social organisations. Ask them to call you if they spot a problem.

You can set up a webcam in the person’s home as a way of speaking with him or her on a daily basis. It means you can see the person too. You can also consider an alert or alarm system for the person that would enable them, at the push of a button, to summon help. Pendants, worn around the neck in case the person cannot get to the telephone, are a common way of facilitating an alarm system.

Investigate travel alternatives

Be prepared to commute at short notice. Investigate travel options in advance. Keep your car in good repair and check on the route and weather before travelling.

If you rent a car, look for the best rates. Don't pay for insurance if you already carry full coverage or your credit card company offers coverage. You may get a discount when buying bus or train tickets if you let them know that it's an emergency.

Discuss legal and financial issues

These topics may be difficult to talk about, but they help ensure that the person with Alzheimer’s disease maintains decision-making authority even when incapacitated. Pre-planning will also lessen family disagreements and protect family resources.

  • A will - will ensure that the person with Alzheimer’s disease decides how to dispose of his or her assets after death.
  • Power of attorney - gives a carer the authority to act on behalf of the person affected.
  • Trust - an estate-planning document that allows the person with Alzheimer’s disease to transfer assets with legal security.
  • Joint ownership - makes it easier to gain access to the finances of the person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Take care of necessary paperwork

Find all legal, financial, and insurance documents, including birth certificates, national insurance details, marriage or divorce decrees, wills, and power of attorney documents. Identify bank accounts, titles, sources of income, financial obligations such as loans, and insurance papers. Review these documents for accuracy and update them if necessary. Store original documents in a secure place such as a safe or a fireproof box or with a bank or solicitor. Be safe - make duplicate copies.

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