Long-Distance Caregiving

Coordinating care from miles away

Caring for an elderly parent is difficult enough when you live in the same city. But if your mother or father lives hundreds – or thousands – of miles away, the challenges of caregiving are compounded by the additional hurdle of distance.

While phone calls and frequent visits can give you a good idea of how well your parent is coping, it’s likely you still feel anxious about the distance and guilty that you aren’t around the corner. If moving closer to each other isn’t an option, consider these ideas to help you manage more easily from afar.

Pull double duty during visits

During each visit, don’t just spend time sitting around chatting, although that is important. Devote part of your visit to household chores – such as changing burned out light bulbs or securing hand rails on porch steps – to make your parent’s home safer and easier to navigate.

Build a support network

While you can’t be there every day, there are hopefully other people in your parent’s life who will call you if something is wrong. Reach out to other relatives, neighbors, long-time friends and spiritual advisers, and be sure each has your contact information in the event of an emergency.

Schedule weekly check-ups

Set aside time on the calendar every week when you and your parent can chat. But don’t focus just on practical matters; be sure to also share funny stories from your week or ask their advice on a decision with which you’re wrestling.

Be sure to plan for your parent’s future

Arrange for them to meet with an attorney or financial adviser who specializes in elder care. Also, urge them to appoint a healthcare power of attorney and fill out advance directives.

Keep in touch with your parent’s doctors

If your parent agrees – and signs a medical release form – contact their doctors frequently to discuss any changes in their health.

Hire a professional

If your parent needs more help than you can provide from a distance, consider hiring an in-home health aide to help with grooming, nutrition and housework.