Living far away from an elderly parent can weigh heavily on
your mind. Even if your parent is currently healthy, it can feel like you’re
always waiting for the other shoe to drop, alert to the possibility that illness
or some other mishap will strike, and you won’t be there to take care of things.
There are lots of things you can do to help you feel more
in control of the situation and to reassure you that your loved one is getting
the care he or she needs. Here are some suggestions:
Schedule regular visits
It’s helpful to set up visits regularly, because otherwise,
too much time goes by in which you haven’t been able to check on your parent. It
also helps your parent to know that the visits are in the calendar, already
When you’re at your parent’s home, take stock of things.
- How does he or she look and act?
- Is he or she taking prescribed medications?
- Is there anything about their personality that seems a
bit off, such as signs of depression? Does your parent see friends on a
- Does he or she still drive? If not, how are basic
shopping and other chores done?
- Are they paying bills on time?
- Is there plenty of food in the house?
As people get older, it often becomes harder for them to
get the nutrition they need. Their appetite may not be what it used to be, and
they may have more trouble getting to the store than they used to. It’s a good
idea for you to fill the kitchen with nutritious, non-perishable foods that your
parent enjoys, such as canned goods, frozen vegetables, etc.
Set up support in your loved one’s location
Look for helpful resources in you parent’s town, such as:
Meals on Wheels: Most communities have this
organization, which provides hot meals at little to no cost.
Senior Centers: These can provide social support to
your loved one, such as eating a hot lunch with other members of the community.
Friends, neighbors, other community members: You
need to have someone you can call to ask, “How does my mother seem to you? Is
there anything going on I should know about?” This person could be a next door
neighbor, a priest or other clergy member or any close friend of your loved one.
National Association of Geriatric Care Managers:
Geriatric care managers are typically gerontologists, nurses, social workers or
psychologists who focus on issues related to aging and elder care. They work
privately with older adults and family members to create a care plan that meets
the needs of the older adult. Find a geriatric care manager near you.
Keep important information easily accessible
Have the following information handy:
- Date of birth for your parent
- Medicare or Medicaid number
- Health insurance information
- Social Security number
- List of medications your parent is taking
- Names, addresses and telephone numbers of doctors,
hospitals and clinics where your parents receive care
- Copies of a living will and power of attorney
Listen to your intuition
Don’t forget about one of the most useful tools available
to you—your intuition. If you’re talking to your mother or father and you just
know something isn’t right, act on that feeling. Make the calls you need to make
to your support system to find out what action you need to take.
Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers; University of California at
Santa Barbara on Long Distance Caregiving.