Key Pointers You Need Now to Help Care for Senior Parent from Afar

At one time, families all lived close to each other. Today families can be spread apart because of jobs and other factors. Distance and COVID concerns make it harder to care for a loved one from afar. There are ways to make it easier.

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Key Pointers You Need Now to Help Care for Senior Parent from Afar
4 Min Read December 22nd, 2020

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), about 15% of all informal caregivers in the US reside more than an hour away from their senior loved ones. In fact, most long-distance caregivers live an average of 450 miles from their senior parent, relative, or friend, making it much more difficult to visit the loved one in their care regularly. 

In addition to the many hours of traveling it takes to visit your long-distance loved one, caring for a senior from afar is both emotionally distressing and costly. From worrying about your loved one’s health and safety to the added cost of traveling back and forth regularly, long-distance caregiving is a challenging responsibility for many. 

Moreover, other challenges affecting long-distance caregivers often include guilt, frustration, and worry. The following tips and resources will help eliminate some of the stress that long-distance caregivers often face.

Ways to Monitor Loved One from Afar

When you can’t be with your senior loved one each day of the week, technology can help to take some of the weight off your shoulders — as long as your loved one consents to it. For instance, home cameras, health- and- medication-tracking smartphone apps, and medical alert devices can all help you to keep a close eye on your loved one, even from afar. 

When you’re not with your loved one, video calling apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger are other excellent options, as these services connect you to your relative or friend at any time. Suppose they don’t already have a computer to use these communication channels. In that case, you can find budget-friendly options with features like touch screens that don’t require a mouse, making it easier for seniors with arthritis to use in their hands. Be sure, however, that you’ve put all necessary security measures on the digital devices you use to communicate with each other, including their computer, smartphone, and tablet.

Understanding Emotional Needs

When you don’t see your senior loved one each day, it can be difficult to understand the signs that your parent, friend, or relative may be suffering from a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. When speaking to your loved one over the phone or via a video call, however, be sure to look out for the following:

  • Signs of confusion, depressed mood, and memory loss
  • Loss of interest in the activities he or she once enjoyed
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Complaints of pain, loneliness, or any unusual physical changes

If you are worried that your long-distance loved one could be suffering from a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, encourage him or her to see a primary care doctor as soon as possible. A doctor can help your senior loved one understand his or her symptoms and develop a treatment plan, whether it be medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. 

Helping to Maintain Independence

Taking proactive measures around the house and with their daily lifestyle is a great way to ensure your senior loved one stays safe. Take stock of the most common injuries seniors face at home and look for ways to help them avoid injury. This includes adding grab bars in hazardous areas like the bathroom, adding non-slip flooring, and adding improved lighting. 

You also want to make sure your loved one keeps up with their nutritional needs. If going to the grocery store isn’t an option, look to services that drop off fresh groceries or precooked meals. You can also put together simple recipe lists or books, so your loved one doesn’t get bored with the same meals all the time. 

Get to Know Their Friends, Doctors, and Neighbors

Unless your loved one lives near other relatives, you may not know who to contact in the event of an emergency. However, this is where any trusted neighbors, doctors, friends, visiting nurses, and physical therapists come into play. When speaking to your senior loved one, obtain the names and contact information of anyone they trust and interact with regularly. Then, contact these individuals to introduce yourself and find out if they may be able to check in on your loved one from time to time. 

Before speaking to your senior parent’s medical team, however, you must obtain written permission from your loved one as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements. 

While caring for a long-distance loved one has its challenges, these tips can help the emotional distress you may be experiencing. By communicating with your loved one’s care team and teaching your senior parent, friend, or relative to use technology, you’ll feel better knowing your long-distance loved one is safe, happy, and healthy — even when you can’t be near. 

For more support and resources on providing your loved one with long-term care, visit LTC News for articles on home care, the latest long-term care headlines, and more.

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About the Author

Mitchell Abbott is a co-creator of Elder Spark. The site aims to help provide resources to help seniors live healthier and happier lives. In his free time, Mitchell enjoys reading and hiking with his dog.

LTC News Contributor Mitchell Abbott

Mitchell Abbott

Contributor since December 22nd, 2020

Editor's Note

It is easier to emotionally consider older family members' needs, but when it comes to our own, we go into denial. However, preparing your family and finances for the future costs and burdens on your aging is an essential part of an overall retirement plan.

Family members are often left with the role of being a caregiver or managing paid care services. When no advance plan has been put in place, the family finds themselves in crisis management. Caregiving is hard, and paid care services are expensive.

We all will get older, and as we get older, we will face many changes with our health, our bodies, and even our minds. The cost of long-term health care can be staggering.  Most long-term health care is delivered in-home, but while care at home is less expensive, it is not cheap. The costs can easily affect income assets, lifestyle, and legacy.

Have you thought about how you would address the costs and burdens of aging when facing this problem yourself in the decades ahead? The time to plan is before you retire - ideally in your 40s or 50s. For many American families, affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you the guaranteed tax-free benefits to pay for your choice of quality care either in-home or in a facility. 


You can see both the current and future cost of long-term care services by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator. There are many other resources on LTC NEWS that will help you learn about available options to both safeguard income and assets and ease the stress otherwise placed on those you love. Find these resources by clicking here

The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide is a good read when you want a solid overall of long-term care planning. However, since LTC Insurance is medically underwritten, but remember, be sure to plan early, ideally when you are in your 40s or 50s when you still enjoy reasonably good health. Plus, premiums are very affordable at those ages. 

Be sure to seek the assistance of a trusted and qualified LTC Insurance specialist. A specialist is a person whose main experience is long-term care planning. The specialist should represent the major companies to help you design an affordable but appropriate policy based on your specific health and financial situation. 

Find your specialist by clicking here.

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