3 Ways to Keep Distant Family Members Connected and Involved

Feeling all alone in the wilderness is a common source of caregiver stress. More distant family and friends are continuing on their merry way while you thrash through the unfamiliar thickets of dementia care. These ideas can help:

  • Take the initiative. If relatives don't call you, or they avoid asking how it's going, consider taking the initiative to do so yourself. Try not to sound defensive or angry (even if that's how you legitimately feel). Just say, "I want to update you on Mom's condition. Here are some of the things that have been happening lately, and here are the things I find helpful."

  • Share information. Sometimes simply being educated about dementia helps outsiders find a way in. Try forwarding this newsletter or Caring.com articles to them: "I thought you'd be interested in seeing this; it's really true for us." And see if your contacts spark a more involved response. Sometimes the people we think are ignoring us are really just sitting back feeling helpless about what to do.

  • Invite them over. From a distance, your relatives may hesitate to be bothersome as "guests" (yes, even family can feel this way). Instead let them know that they're welcome -- and then plan your end carefully. Don't try to go all-out as a hostess; the idea is to ease your stress, not add to it. Schedule doctor appointments during the visit, so your family member can come along and hear firsthand updates. Schedule a few just-for-me activities, too, so that you can take advantage of the visitor to be with your loved one while you get out and recharge.

Learn more about what other caregivers say they want from long-distance relatives.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

about 4 years, said...

This is the unfortunate part about AD: Sooner or later there WILL be people in a circle of family and friends who, for their own reasons, choose not to become involved. Perhaps they have a long ago unresolved conflict with the person and you hear something like, "Aunt Liz always was mean to me so why should I help out now?" Often it is, I am sorry to say..about money issues. And the other thing, not so obvious: Being with someone who has Alz dementia or something that creates ongoing, relentless deterioration means that on some level (even though we are not admitting it) we are facing OUR OWN mortality. And many people are busy with their own life priorities. Maybe they simply lack the courage to confront life's most unpleasant, frightening moments. Or they are too selfish and self involved. I have seen different types of responses. While I am extremely thankful that my own mom at 92, is still is able to live on her own, with Val and I helping, and neighbors looking in often, I am aware: not every situation is as blessed as ours. So I urge caregivers in danger of pushing the "overwhelm" button - to get the support they need wherever they can find it - be it a pastor, a Doctor's referral, a Senior Community advocate, and family and friends who DO feel they can weigh in, and add good energy. Keep the faith. And, hang in.

about 5 years, said...

I am often resentful of family who could easily come by and visit and/or help out but don't but I stuff it inside and end up with tension and migraine headaches and no one to care for me or my mom. This will give me an outlet to lessen my stress and show my family just how much I and my mom need them!

over 5 years, said...

These do not consistently work-they're temporary and "feel good" techniques. You can try everything and anything but in the end you are exhausted for having tried and have made little to no progress. Sound negative? Yes, because that's what Alzheimer's does to a caregiver spouse.