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Supporting Our Caregivers

Journalist Richard Lui on Long-Distance Caregiving and Prioritizing Your Well-Being

MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui is based in New York City, but he travels weekly to San Francisco to be with his family and help provide care for his father, who has advanced-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist also does advocacy work with the Alzheimer’s Association. Here, he shares his advice for other caregivers and encourages them to hold onto joy and love, even while managing a loved one’s difficult diagnosis.

What was the diagnosis process like for your family when you found out your father has Alzheimer’s?

My father went in to see a neurologist on his own. This after the family asked him to have it checked out. He came back and told us he had early indications of dementia-Alzheimer’s. His actions after diagnosis were to fight it every step of the way.

What advice do you have for those in long-distance caregiving situations?

Don’t be daunted by distance. Talk to your employer about what is happening so they understand why you might be gone or working remotely more often.  Install cloud based cameras in the house. Stay overnight at your loved one’s house so you can learn what the bumps in the night really are.

How important is it to maintain consistent contact with your family in California to ensure everyone is up to date on your father’s wellbeing? How are you able to do so?

We have group texts going back six years where’d we share daily reports with each other, whether at home or in the hospital. There is a caregiving shared doc where we would put in notes of each of our visits. Talking on the phone on major decisions would happen once or twice a week when necessary.

How has coming together as caregivers for your father impacted your family dynamic?

We didn’t know how close we could get.  This means arguing, laughing, crying, sharing and working to each of our own given abilities. We’ve determined what we’re each good at. And we’ve not stopped giving our all, just as our father would not have.

What are some unexpected tasks you’ve had to tackle due to your father’s limited mobility?

Activities of daily living include a lot of stuff. The most difficult for my family was picking up his poop, helping get up off the floor, changing diapers later on, seeing him streak across the house. Not only did he feel helpless, so did I.  Many times.

How can caregivers ensure that they also prioritize their own well-being?

Talk about it.  When people ask, “How are you?” Stop and try to think deeply about what that answer is and then say it out loud.  That helps.  Reach out for advice and help to the organizations in your town. Join a group whether online, of friends, or at the community center where you can be you.

Caregiving with its ups and downs. How does your family work through the difficult days?

We try to remember the joy amongst the difficulty. To laugh at things that should be laughed at.  To help each other always.  To pray (if you are a praying kind of person) And to accept we cannot do it all. And to remember to love each other. 

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