Long Distance Caregiving: Does Your Parent Need Help?

long distance caregiving

What is long distance caregiving?

Living an hour or more away from someone you care for makes you a long distance caregiver. Since you can’t be there in person, your caregiving tasks might include:

  • Helping Mom manage Dad’s health insurance policy, claims, and payments.
  • Keeping important legal documents like Power of Attorney, living will, and wills up to date.
  • Researching home care agencies and checking references so Dad has reliable in-home care.
  • Making sure Mom has regular companionship and cooking, gardening, or home maintenance help.
  • Working with a local geriatric care manager to make sure your parents stay healthy and safe.


How do I know if help is needed?

A top question from long-distance caregivers is how they’ll know when or if their older adult needs help. We hear things like “Mom sounds fine on the phone and insists she’s doing well. How do I know if she’s telling the truth?”

Some seniors ask for help when they need it and will be truthful about their situation – “Cooking is getting harder because of my arthritis.” Others don’t want to be a burden and try to hide their needs as long as possible – “Everything’s fine! You worry too much.”

Long distance care tip #1: Play detective in a subtle way
If you can’t see your older adult in person very often, you might need to play detective to make sure they’re actually doing well and not just telling you what you want to hear. Here are some tips:

  • Call or video chat at strategic times – before meals, after they usually get up and get ready for the day, or after medication should be taken.
  • Ask casually about the meal they’re preparing “What have you got cooking for dinner tonight?”
  • Talk about your own plans for the day and ask about theirs. This lets you know what they’re up to, but doesn’t make it sound like you’re prying.
  • Say that you’re looking for tips on how to remember to take your vitamins. Ask how they stick to their medication schedule.


Long distance care tip #2: Recruit local eyes and ears
You might also want to develop relationships with your senior’s neighbors, friends, doctors, and local relatives. Ask if they’ve been worried or if they’ve noticed any recent changes in habits or behavior. Ask them to call you if they see anything strange or if it’s ok for you to call once a month to check in.


Long distance care tip #3: Learn as much as you can during visits
Get the most out of each visit by using this checklist to assess the situation and look for signs of trouble. It’s easier to spot problems when you’re there and it’s harder for your older adult to hide what’s really going on.


You might also like:
The Five Wishes Living Will
Long Term Care Cost Calculator
5 Ways to Prevent Elder Fraud


By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Well Heeled Blog


  • Reply January 7, 2015

    Donna Brooten

    try this FREE website. You can create a schedule for your parent–and then have access to it long distance. Your siblings can access it too. It is web-based so you can easily access and update the meds. I even send my mom text message reminders and have the refill reminders come to me so she never runs out of meds. I work for this company–so full disclosure. But it is the best–and the iPhone and Android apps were reviewed with 160 apps for medication adherence by University of Arkansas Pharmacists and MyMedSchedule.com is #1. The checklist is great for filling a pillbox and then keeping track of taking the meds. http://www.MyMedSchedule.com

  • Reply January 7, 2015


    Living away from your elderly family member can be very hard because the distance can be a liability as you take care of them. If the seniors need help, you won’t be able to come as quickly as possible – imagine if it’s an emergency, right? A suggestion would be to invest in a trusted home care worker (especially if you can afford) because at least you can be assured of the condition of your loved one even if you are away.

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