Long Distance Caregiving Tips For Aging Parents

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Long distance caregiving (taking care of aging parents or an older sibling, for example) can be incredibly stressful.  What signs should you look for in older adults that indicate a need for assistance?  Even if your elderly parents live far away, you still need to ensure they are safe, healthy, and well cared for. I thought I would share a few long distance caregiving tips as well as a few ways to decide if remote caregiving is even necessary yet. 

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Long Distance Care giving Tips For elderly parents

How do I know if my elderly parents need help?

The first thing you need to figure out is if your elderly parents even need your help yet.  And I can tell you from experience that just ASKING them isn’t going to give you all the answers you need.  Older parents can be decidedly stubborn when it comes to asking for help!  

Do your aging parents need to you step in yet?  Here are a few signs that may indicate a need for assistance, either from you, a home health aid for the elderly, or just a trusted neighbor:

long distance care giving

Banking problems

Are bills piling up?  If checks are being bounced and there are calls coming from collections agencies, you may need to get involved in your parents financial issues.  On your next visit to your parents, talk to them about any late payment notices or banking irregularities that they may have noticed.

Home repair problems

When you visit your aging parents, do you notice that the interior or exterior of the home is in disrepair?  Are there broken appliances, wiggly porch steps, or doors that don’t close properly?  These are all signs that your elderly parents may be struggling to keep up with the needs of their house. 

Changes in mood, depression,  or extreme mood swings

This may require that you spend some time just hanging out with your parents.  Assessing mood in the elderly isn’t always easy.  It’s easy to fake being happy during a ten minute phone conversation when you live across the country.  However, changes in mood can be a sure sign that your aging parent may need assistance.  See if you can have an honest conversation with their friend or neighbor to assess their mood.  

clutter on a table

Clutter and disorganization

While  some clutter is normal, excessive clutter in your older parent’s home may lead to trip and fall accidents, which can be incredibly dangerous.  Are dirty dishes piling up?  Is the laundry getting done?  You may need to investigate getting a housekeeper to help them stay on top of things. 

Confusion and uncertainty

Being confused about the new TV remote is rather normal.  However, confusion when performing once-familiar tasks can signify a problem.  Confusion in the elderly can be a sign of significant problems so this is something that you need to address with their doctor. 

toothbrushes on bathroom sink

Personal hygiene problems

If your older parents are struggling with basic hygiene, they may need daily assistance from a home health aid.  Bathing, clipping toenails, washing hair, etc can be difficult as they get older.  Having someone come in to help a few days a week may be all the caregiving they really need. 

Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness in the elderly can range from neglecting to take medications to forgetting to turn off the stove.  Many of these situations can have disastrous results.  Ask their doctor if they are missing important appointments.  Check with their pharmacist to see if they are filling their medications properly and ask a trusted friend to stop by occasionally to check on them.  Get them a pill box for seniors to help them remember to take their medications. 

older adult with back pain

Physical injuries

Unexplained bruising, falls, etc. can all indicate a difficulty in getting around.  If you stop in for a visit and notice a bruise, ask them about it.  If you get a call from their doctor about unexplained injuries, don’t let them just brush your concerns under the rug.  

Nurse and elderly patient with text Caring for Elderly Parents when you live far away

Tips for Long Distance Caregiving

There are many strategies for long distance caregiving that you will have to explore.  Feeling guilty about elderly parents being on their own is normal, however, this isn’t always something that YOU personally can do. 

Like these long distance caregiving tips?  Check out these posts, too

Talk to your parents about remote caregiving options and ask them what they are willing to accept.  If you truly suspect a problem voice your concerns to them.  Here are a few tips for long distance caregiving that may help keep your elderly parents safe when you can’t be there to help. 

older adult woman on skype

High tech solutions for long distance caregiving

Consider teaching your parents how to use Skype or a similar video phone call service. I know this is intimidating for some elderly people…my mom can barely figure out the VCR! However, actually SEEING the person you are talking to will go a long way towards making sure they are healthy and the house is in good order.

Make friends with the neighbors

Talk to your parent’s neighbors, friends, and nearby family members. Ask someone to stop in and check on your parents occasionally and let you know how they are doing. This is helpful for you but also makes the elderly a bit happier when they have company to chat with.

Look into power of attorney

If your parents are getting older you may want to talk to a lawyer about gaining power of attorney. In an emergency situation you may need to make decisions regarding their health or finances and this can be difficult if you do not have legal authority to do this. Check out the book Powers of Attorney Simplified: The Ultimate Guide to Powers of Attorney for information on how to do this. 

Daily pill box with medications and nutritional supplements.

Get them organized with simple solutions

As we get older we get more forgetful and it is sometimes hard for the elderly to remember important things like phone numbers and medicine schedules. Get a monthly pill organizer and have someone help them sort their prescriptions. Type up a list of important phone numbers in large print and put it on the refrigerator. Make sure there is a notebook and pencil by the phone for taking down messages.

Talk to them about scammers, hustlers and online safety 

We worry about the safety of our children online but how about our parents?  Older adults are at real risk for scammers and hustlers, both online and at their front door.  Talk to them about online scams, people asking for money, phone calls that ask for their social security number, etc.  Check out the National Council on Aging for scams targeted to seniors and how to protect them. 

Make long distance caregiving easier with local help 

When the cleaning got to be too much for my grandmother, she hired a friend to come and do it once a month. Look into having someone come and do the cooking and cleaning for your elderly parents. While you would like to be the one doing the helping, long term care giving means that you will need to rely on others to help out when you can’t be there.

Elderly person taking medication and doing physical therapy with text 'Elderly Caregiving when you don't live nearby'

The Challenges of Caring for the Elderly

Having parents that live far away can be stressful as they start to age. We want to be there for them the way they were there for us as we grew up but jobs and family commitments often make this impossible. Look into long term care insurance NOW and talk to your parents about their needs and desires. You can find out more about caring for aging parents at the National Institute on Aging

The most important part of taking care of aging parents is  planning before you actually need to worry about it. Knowing how you will handle things in the future and talking to your elderly parents about it will make decisions easier when they finally have to be made.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. We had to make a similar decision for my grandmother a few years ago. Luckily, we weren't long distance though.
  2. My mom is not very old yet but she does live quite far from us. But these tips will come in handy for sure when the time comes. I will keep this in mind.
  3. Everything you said is spot on. Caring for elderly parents (or grandparents, in my case), is challenging, let alone when it's from a distance.
  4. Amber Edwards says
    My mom is not doing so well in her older age. My Dad is still alright, but he can't care for my mom as much as she needs. we've been able to manage everything except to hire someone to come take care of my mom. The costs of those medical bills are too much that our entire family combined just can't manage. Thankfully we have close neighbors and family living close that is helping out as much as they can. These are fantastic tips to help keep a close eye on your elderly family members if you happen to live farther away.
    • Im sorry to hear things are hard for your mom. It is important for caregivers to realize that they are not alone and can ask for help when they need it. Good luck!
  5. We just love this article Diane because it emphasizes the importance of carefully choosing different long term care options and the benefits of planning for it early. Great job on this! By the way, we would like to inform you that we have featured this article in LTC Option’s Weekly Digest as our readers can greatly benefit from what you’ve written. Visit www.ltcoptions.com/weekly-digest-top-6-blog-posts-on-long-term-care-and-more to read the whole compilation.
    • I am so glad you felt the article was helpful! Thanks so much for the feature and I will definitely check out the website!
  6. We are blessed that my grandfather lives close by. He lives in my parents home - 5 minutes from me.
    • I really wish I lived near my family. Not only are holidays rather lonely but when there is someone sick or elderly it makes care giving very difficult!
  7. These are fantastic tips Diane. I especially think getting our loved ones more tech savvy is definitely important as they don't feel so far away from families and friends they love, if they're comfortable with technology.
    • agreed! Now, if I could just get my mom to figure out the VCR! Maybe some of the retirement centers or community centers should consider a technology class!
  8. Good tips. Growing up, we had an elderly couple that my mom looked in on. When the wife died, my mom became his power of attorney and helped him with his medical care. So I wholeheartedly agree with making friends with the neighbors.
    • I think this is something our society is losing, unfortunately. We really need to step back and realize that sometimes it really does take a village to make things work!
  9. I think being organized is definitely key into making long distance care giving doable. It's amazing that your grandmother has been able to do so much on her own at 93. That's impressive! It's nice that Genworth is such a great resource too.
    • She was really going strong til she hit 90. She would go line dancing and on bus tours to the casino! These last few years have been rough but happy that she is safe in a place she is enjoying.
  10. Great tips! I can't imagine my parents getting old enough to where they need help. But, I know that the day may come. I live 6 hours away from my dad, so I'll need the long distance help! Thanks, Diane!
    • Glad to see you thought they were helpful. My parents are in their early 70s but very active. it is hard to see them slowing down but I know it will happen.

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