dementia care from afar

Personal circumstances leave many families with the guilt and worry of caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia from afar. Whilst the situation may seem daunting, you can arrange for your loved one to remain safe and relatively independent. The key is to access support services, use appropriate devices and monitor the situation regularly.

Support Services

Australia’s new aged care guidelines mean that you are at liberty to choose a provider and services which you believe will be most useful for your loved one. Work with the Department of Social Services in order to assess eligibility and develop a specific care package. By choosing a service provider which specialises in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, you can be assured that the in-home carers are fully aware of your loved one’s needs.

In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may not need an in-home carer. For peace of mind, organise with a quality home care provider to phone weekly and visit a few times monthly. Your loved one may be able to hide particular problems from you that a professional will detect.

Many church and community groups have volunteer programs to assist with dementia sufferers. These programs may include going on excursions and making social visits. Your local council will be able to advise about services in your area.

Useful Devices

From specialised phones to GPS tracking software, there are a number of devices that can help your loved one remain independent. By retaining social skills and doing as many normal activities as possible, your loved one can enjoy life whilst avoiding emergency situations.

Telephone: In many cases, the telephone will become your loved one’s link with the world. Whether you choose a landline or a mobile phone, the model should be simple to use and allow your loved one to identify contacts easily. For this reason, many dementia sufferers have phones with pictures of contacts as they often forget names. You might also consider a phone with an emergency alert button.

ID Bracelets: In some Australian states a free “Safely Home” program exists. Dementia sufferers are given an ID bracelet with a Policelink phone number and unique ID engraved on it. If someone finds a lost person, they can call the police who will consult a database to identify your loved one and take action. Alternatively, many companies produce medical ID alert jewellery which can be purchased inexpensively.

GPS Devices: New software which tracks dementia patients is constantly being developed. This software can be in the form of pendants, bracelets, mobile phone apps or even a watch. These devices can be used to easily track your loved one should they become lost. Some devices also allow a field to be set so that the in-home carer will hear an alarm if your loved one has wandered beyond a certain distance.

Careful Monitoring

By maintaining regular contact with your in-home service provider and visiting occasionally, you can assess any changes which need to be made. As your loved one’s dementia progresses, it may be necessary to give more duties to your in-home carer and use more complex tracking devices. Do not hesitate to ask your in-home service provider for advice on how to keep your loved one active and safe.

Far Away but Close at Heart

By following these steps and maintaining regular contact with your loved one, he or she will know that you care and trust your decisions. In turn, you can be reassured that your loved one is well cared for and secure even though you are far away.

Image credit: "Salt Lake Grandma" (cropped) by Nate Grigg. (Creative Commons Attribution-2.0 Generic)

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