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Interview With Marcellette Wise: Caregiving From a Distance

We interviewed Marcellette Wise, who is currently a caregiver for her 87-year-old mother. Marcellette lives in Philadelphia and travels weekly to her mother's home in New York City. Caregiving is a different journey for everyone. Marcellette brings some perspective to what long-distance caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer's is like.

When was your mom diagnosed?

My mother was diagnosed in February 2020. She was 87 years old.

Was it hard to get an official diagnosis?

No. We saw mom slipping cognitively in terms of memory and decision-making – like driving. I took her to a neurologist, who administered a qualitative exam and diagnosed her with mild dementia.

How do you manage long-distance caregiving?

It’s difficult with the pandemic. My sister and I call every day. I have groceries delivered every 2 weeks. My sister and I visit her on alternate weekends. I have access to her finances, but she is paying her own bills. We recently hired someone to come over 2 and a half days a week. A good thing about the pandemic is that she’s not driving. We have to figure out how to tell her that she’s not driving and how to get her to the places she still enjoys.

Is caregiving from a distance working well in terms of managing your mom’s health?

I think that caregiving from a distance is working so far. My sister is only 45 minutes away from her. Her friends and neighbors have our contact information. The home aid will help. Physically, my mother is healthy, but thin.

Have you thought about assisted living?

We have considered assisted living and haven’t crossed it out yet. My mother doesn’t want it. Plus, it’s not time. My mother can still live on her own with assistance.

What advice would you give other caregivers whose parents just received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis?

My sister and I trade off on my mother’s doctor's appointments. I do the specialists (neurologist, cardiologist), and my sister does the internists. Since she’s closer geographically, my sister should probably do 2 doctors.

I try to be patient with my mother and respect her dignity. I don’t speak to her or treat her like a child. I also try to engage her intellectually with puzzles and conversation. She enjoys church, so my brother-in-law showed her how to watch the virtual services on the computer.

I also try to be patient with my sister. She lives closer to her, so it’s easy for her to think I’m taking advantage or not doing my share. So, I probably do more than my share, but I value my relationship with her. If all goes the way it should, my sister and I will be here when my mother is gone, so it’s a relationship worth nurturing.

Then I have to be engaged with my own family ...

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s difficult to share this responsibility with another family member. Splitting responsibilities can be difficult in terms of balancing responsibilities and maintaining (sometimes delicate) relationships.

Can you relate to Marcellette? How do you manage long-distance caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer's? Let us know in the comments or by sharing your own story.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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