In today’s world, it isn’t uncommon for seniors and their adult children to be separated by many miles. An adult child might relocate after they get married or accept a new job. As parents grow older, finding ways to help support them long-distance can feel challenging.
If you find yourself in this position with an older loved one, there are a variety of steps you can take to better manage their safety and care.
Caring for a Senior Loved One Long-Distance
1. Work together on a plan.
Sit down with your aging loved one to discuss their situation and get honest input about what they need. Make a list so you can find ways to address all their concerns.
Your care plan should include current needs while also looking to the future. Though it may be uncomfortable, it’s also important to talk about the kind of care they want—and don’t want—in the future.
This might be a good time to review what legal documents they have in place, such as a will and a durable power of attorney, and what they still need to create.
2. Assemble a support team.
When you live far away, getting to your loved one in an emergency will obviously take time. Get to know the senior’s friends, neighbors, and other people you can count on in a crisis. Make sure they have your home, office, and cell phone numbers so they can easily reach you.
Some long-distance caregivers find it helpful to hire a local aging life care manager. These groups of trained professionals evaluate, coordinate, and monitor the well-being of seniors. They can assist in hiring and supervising home care aides, check in on older adults who live in assisted living communities, and help seniors connect with local social programs.
3. Explore local resources.
On your next visit to your parent’s home, take time to explore local resources. You may be surprised to discover how many senior-friendly businesses there are, even in more rural communities.
They often include grocery stores and pharmacies that deliver, Meals on Wheels programs, and transportation services. It might help to call the local agency on aging for advice.
4. Create a binder of information.
One of the biggest challenges caregivers face is keeping a senior’s important information organized. Once you establish an easy-to-follow system, however, you will feel more on top of your caregiving responsibilities.
Include your loved one’s medical, insurance, and legal paperwork, such as their living will, long-term care policy, mortgage, and birth certificate. Make copies to take with you and find a safe place in the senior’s home to store the originals.
5. Take advantage of technology.
Modern technology can make virtual caregiving much easier. Set up a video chat service such as Skype on your loved one’s tablet device or computer. That allows you to talk face-to-face every day.
Caregiving apps are an easy way to manage the senior’s appointment schedule and medical information. CareZone, AARP Caregiver, and CaringBridge are a few to investigate.
Finally, talk with your loved one about sharing their online bill pay login. Even if they can manage their finances independently, it will give you access in case of an emergency.
6. Plan visits home wisely.
Finally, plan your trips home wisely. Whenever possible, coordinate them with important medical appointments. That allows you to hear about your loved one’s health, and additional support they might need, directly from their physician.
Also use home visits to assess the senior’s home for safety. Neglected home repairs can result in trip and fall injuries. Our article "How to conduct a home safety audit of a senior’s home” will help you evaluate the house in an organized, objective manner.