There is nothing easy about watching your parents age if you live far away. But you can help. Learn how to care for aging parents from a distance.
You can help your elderly parents no matter how close – or how far away -you live.
Your tasks may look a little different than those performed by someone living next door or down the street, but they’re valuable nonetheless.
There are a variety of ways to care for aging parents from a distance. In fact, I’m confident there are several things you can start doing immediately.
But, I also know that this will be a lot to remember when you’re first getting started; so I made a printable list for you! Be sure to get your FREE list of ways to care for your aging parents!
Thankfully, these tasks are not dependent on your gender, income, job title, or age. And, if you have siblings, work together by sharing your strengths to help your parents.
Evaluate the Home for Elderly Safety
If your aging parents are going to continue to live in their current home, safety is the first priority. Assess the need to:
- Pick up throw rugs
- Install grab bars (#paid link) in the shower or tub area
- Provide a bath bench (#paid link) in the tub to help with transfers
- Place night lights or lighted outlet covers (#paidlinks) in strategic areas
- Keep pets safe (keep them on a leash and/or crate them at night so they don’t get stepped on or cause a fall)
- Install handrails by stairs or outdoor steps
- Place seating in a dressing area or bathroom
Manage Finances – How to Care for Aging Parents from a Distance
For some aging people, managing finances becomes harder. This is a great way to help your parents – especially if that is something that comes easy to you. Here are a few small tasks:
- Reviewing and organizing financial statements
- Paying bills
- Managing financial accounts
- Make related phone calls
Arrange In-home Services
Although there are lots of tasks you can do to care for aging parents from a distance, arranging for in-home service evaluation is a must-do. To start this, your aging parent will need a home safety evaluation order from a primary care physician (your most important healthcare contact for your parents) and your parent will need to choose a home healthcare agency to perform this service. This evaluation is usually a covered service by Medicare.
If your parent has a skilled need (meaning services that can only be provided by a medically skilled professional like a registered nurse, physical or occupational therapist) and is homebound, your parent may be eligible to receive skilled and unskilled (bath aide) care at home.
However, if your parent is not homebound, or does not require a skilled service, you can hire a variety of services to help your aging parent (and your siblings). You can use in-home service agencies, or you can find privately offered services through Care.com.
I recommend you also contact your department of aging in your parent’s community to see if there are any programs offered in the area that can fund in-home services.
You may have already found medical equipment needs while you had a safety evaluation performed, but you can also check to see if there are any additional medical equipment needs that your parents may need.
Be very selective when hiring for in-home services. Be sure to get several references and ask for background check results when using agencies.
Provide Occasional Respite Care
Caregiving is stressful, especially for the primary caregiver. Providing occasional respite care so the primary caregiver can have a break and get away for a while is a treasure.
Your respite care not only provides time for you to spend with your aging parents, but it also may prevent caregiver burnout and maybe even symptoms or illness of the primary caregiver.
Research Care in an Assisted Living Facility, or Skilled Nursing Facility (nursing home)
While you may not need these additional services right away, it is extremely valuable to do the research before you need them-it does take some research and time!
You can spend some time now, when you’re not under and urgent time crunch, looking for places that have services and philosophies that align with your parent’s needs and attitudes and are the best-fit residential facilities for your parents.
Then, you can narrow down your options by looking at facility/nursing home inspections to find the safest options.
Providing Emotional Support is a Great Way to Care for Aging Parents from a Distance
Everyone needs a cheerleader. You can be a cheerleader for your parents as they move through the aging process. Experiencing health problems is discouraging for many people, but it helps to have someone reminding the elderly to focus on the things they still can do. And, many times, with a little thought and a few alterations, they can still participate in activities they enjoy.
The primary caregiver also needs a cheerleader. The day-to-day caregiving can seem monotonous and unimportant.
Having someone remind the caregiver that what they are doing IS VALUABLE, IS HELPFUL, and IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE is an important task, and is something that can be done from a distance.
In addition to phone calls, encouraging cards, emails, and texts can also motivate and support the primary caregiver.
Give Updates to Friends and Family
Keeping caring friends and family updated can be a full-time job. But, it can also be a fruitful one.
Make a list of ways friends or family can help your parents. As you share updates, share needs too! People who love your parents and family are looking for ways to help.
You can create a small Facebook group or use another social media platform to share updates and needs.
Create an Emergency Plan – a Helpful Way to Care for Aging Parents from a Distance
An emergency plan is a pre-emptive attempt at solving future problems that can come up. Problems that might need solving include:
- The primary caregiver becomes ill
- Your parent needs to be hospitalized
- And then the parent needs to come back home with additional care needs
- Additional services or equipment is needed in the home
- An extended skilled nursing unit or assisted living complex is required
- The parent needs more unskilled care around the home (housekeeping, lawn care services, transportation, etc.)
You just cannot over plan for emergencies. Brainstorm a list of problems and then develop solutions to those problems – before they happen.
In closing, there are many tasks you can do to care for your aging parents from a distance. While it may seem overwhelming when you first jump in to help, there is definitely a starting point.
Be sure to start with a call to the primary care provider, a safety evaluation, and assess the need for in-home services.
Once you have any necessary equipment or services in place you can move on to the other tasks as they are identified.
While it is never easy to watch your parents’ age, caring for them doesn’t have to be difficult.
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!