How Can I Support Aging Parents When I Live Far Away?
Technology is a powerful tool for those who live far from home. With our society becoming increasingly mobile--children moving away from home for jobs, spouses, warmer weather, or more opportunity--many adult children rely on technology to stay in touch with their parents as they age. But long-distance relationships are always a little challenging, especially when it comes to caring for an aging parent.
Luckily, of the roughly 34.2 million family caregivers in America who are providing unpaid care to an older loved one, only 13 to 15 percent of them are caring for their parent or loved one from a distance, according to the Family Caregivers Alliance. But that still means that between 5 and 7 million people are struggling to provide caregiving support to loved ones from afar.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who is trying to provide long-distance caregiving help to a loved one, we understand what you are facing, and we’re here to help.
Tips for Caring for An Aging Parent From A Distance
Although it’s not always ideal to provide long-distance caregiving to a parent or loved one, it’s not impossible as long as you have a plan of attack. Here are a few tips to put a plan in motion:
- Talk With Your Siblings. If you have siblings, have an official talk with them about your parents or loved ones who need extra care. Make sure you are all on the same page about who will be responsible for which aspects of your loved one’s care. Depending on your individual strong suits, think about who can handle financial decisions, who can handle making medical decisions, and who can best keep important paperwork organized. Together, if you decide that one sibling will be handling all of the decisions, commit to keeping each other in the loop.
- Connect With Friends and Neighbors. When you are responsible for caring for an aging parent from a distance, it helps to have eyes and ears on the ground that can give you an honest account of what’s happening with your loved one. By connecting with your loved one’s close friends and neighbors--people who have daily access to them--you can get an accurate picture of how your loved one is doing, and whether or not you need to enlist more help for them at home.
- Plan Regular Visits. While constant visits back home to check on your loved one might not be realistic or financially sound, planning regular visits to return every 4-6 weeks can be much more practical. Long-distance caregiving isn’t as effective without face-to-face encounters with your loved one. You need to personally assess the status of their health and their care needs in order to make the best decisions on their behalf. Besides, as someone who loves you, your visits would bring lots of joy and happiness, and give your parent or loved one something to look forward to.
- Use Technology To Keep In Touch. In between visits, technology, like Skype or Facetime, can help you stay connected to your loved one in a meaningful way. A video chat, as opposed to a phone call, can give you more insight into their well being. For instance, you may notice that they have a bruise on their face as a result of experiencing a fall at home, or that the house, which is typically tidy, seems to be in disarray. These visual cues can provide you with valuable information that you can use to make better decisions when you are caring for an aging parent from afar.
- Enlist Help. Being a family caregiver is hard whether you live 20 minutes away by car, or 5 hours away on a plane. No matter the distance, it can help to have help when you are caring for an aging parent. Consider hiring an in-home caregiver in order to take some of the pressure off of you, and to make your loved one more comfortable in their own home. A service like Tandem can go one step further in assisting with your loved one’s caregiving needs, and bring you peace of mind.
You’re Not Alone On Your Caregiving Journey
Often times, being a caregiver for a family member or loved one can make you feel as though you’re on an island, but there are a variety of networks and resources available to help you feel less alone. If you’re not quite sure where to begin your long-distance caregiving journey, check out our Family Caregiver Checklist to figure out what your loved one needs in order to thrive at home.
And if you’re ready to move forward with hiring an in-home caregiver, call one of our Senior Care Specialists at 1-800-370-3377 to get the process started today.