Long-Distance Caregiving

Being a long-distance caregiver is complicated. If you can’t physically check on your parent, how can you ensure that they are getting what they need? A strong support system is key.

Issues to Consider

Staying in touch.

Do you really know what’s going on? Does your parent seem isolated, depressed or nervous? Are they acting out of character or out of it? If they need help, do they have it? How can you vet home care aids, agencies or other service providers?

Is your family member taking advantage of community resources? Do they—or you—even know what those are or what their needs are? An aging life care professional (recently changed from “geriatric care manager”) can evaluate the situation, make recommendations and even oversee care.

Does it make sense for your parent to think about moving closer to you or a sibling? Is there a better arrangement?

Beef up your back up.

Even if the system is working now, is there a backup or “next step” plan?

How can you lighten your own load so that caregiving from afar is not all on you? Are there others who can pitch in? Even if they don’t live close, can they pick up a task? What are they good at and what they are willing to do (i.e. pay Mom’s bills online, confer with a financial advisor, coordinate care and medical appointments, visit Dad, make sure all their important documents are in one place, explore respite and adult day care). If it’s a sibling who is the primary caregiver, what can you do to help them?

Keeping tabs.

Could aging in place technology give them more independence, stave off long-term care or give you peace of mind? It allows you to keep an eye on your parent so you know they’re eating, taking their medication and haven’t fallen, let’s say, and can get help right away if there’s a problem.

When you’re not right there, you have to be extra vigilant. Be on the alert for a new “friend” on the scene or caregiver who is controlling or cutting them off from family. Could it be a scam in the making? Do you know what the red flags are?