Keeping Parents Safe When You Live Far Away

Check out another special feature from Marie Villeza creator of Elder Impact, which provides resources to help seniors and caregivers...

Caring for an elderly family member isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some families are local and can drop in daily to tend to an aging parent, while others move back home to provide live-in care. But for some far-away family members, leaving their own responsibilities behind to become a full-time caregiver simply isn’t an option. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help. Here’s how you can keep your parents safe and cared for, no matter where you are.

1. Check In

When you visit, notice how their house looks.

In order to fully grasp your parents’ needs, you’ll need to make occasional visits to check in on their home and health status. 

  • Has their once-tidy home become messy and unkempt?
  • Are they struggling to make their way up steps or tripping over carpet edges?

This is the time to determine what accommodations are necessary to enable your parents to stay at home.  Take note of the hazards you see and start budgeting for renovations that will keep their house livable as they age.  At the minimum, most seniors need a no-step entry, bathroom grab bars, and improved lighting for successful aging-in-place.

When travel is out of the budget, use technology to stay up-to-date.  Video chat lets you connect face-to-face even when you’re miles away, and senior call services like Jibbr check in when your own schedule is jam-packed.  They can even take over small jobs like medication reminders, so you can keep your conversations with Mom and Dad friendly, not nagging.

2. Handle the Big Jobs

If your parents are experiencing memory issues or cognitive decline, they may need help managing their finances.  It’s possible you’ll uncover past-due bills in stacks of mail or forgotten investment accounts.  You can set up auto-pay for bills and contact financial institutions so you receive a copy of their monthly statements.  Depending on their health status, you may need to take over your parents’ finances completely — this guide from Bankrate will walk you through the process.

This is also a good time to help your parents create important legal documents.  This may include updating their will, making an advance directive, and appointing a durable power of attorney.  Turn to conference calls if you’re unable to meet with your parents’ attorney in person.

3. Delegate

If you don’t have family and friends to count on, you still have options.

Even if you’re an only child, you don’t have to manage every caregiving need alone.  Find small ways for other family members to pitch in.  Perhaps a local relative can drive your parents to church services while another handles grocery shopping and refills prescriptions.   Grocery delivery services let you compile orders and have them delivered to your parents’ doorstep, while ride-sharing apps ensure your loved ones can get to their favorite social outings when they can’t drive themselves.

When delegating caregiving duties, it’s important that your instructions are clear and leave no room for interpretation.  Create a care plan that describes each task in detail and require the assigned party to check off when it’s complete.  Google Docs makes it easy for multiple parties to collaborate on a single document.

It’s not easy watching your parents age, and living far away can leave you feeling helpless.  But just because you can’t be there for Sunday lunch and Thursday cribbage doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in their lives.  Use these suggestions to stay involved in your parents’ care, and remember: There’s no shame in asking for help.

About the Author:
Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. She developed to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.