Caring for Aging Parents From a Distance

Caring for Aging Parents From a Distance

time icon 5 min read update icon Sept. 16, 2019


Living a great distance away from aging parents may create many challenges when it comes to providing care. Oftentimes, children have many concerns about a parent’s safety and their ability to complete their daily tasks. While it is natural to want to be with parents as they age, circumstances may often prevent it. Fortunately, resources are available for children to ensure their parents’ well-being, even from a distance. 


Nearly seven million adults live an hour or more away from their parents and are providing long-distance care to those parents. Since many adults don’t automatically posses caregiver experience, long distance care may take on other forms, from assisting with finances to providing emotional support and arranging in-home care. 

Technology and a variety of information and training classes are readily available to provide additional assistance. Many American Red Cross local chapters also offer a variety of courses and classes. In many instances, Medicare, Medicaid, and some nonprofit organizations will pay for the training. 

Long Distance Care for Parents

1. Technology 

Technology can assist in the long-distance care of aging parents. Medical alert devices can serve as useful tools to enable aging parents to communicate with family members, healthcare providers, and emergency medical personnel if a medical emergency arises. Medical alert devices are easy to use, and help can be summoned with the touch of a button. A medical alert button also enables seniors to live independently, with less worry. 

Motion detectors and sensors can also be installed in these devices, to alert as to whether the parent is moving about the house. Such technology can provide caregivers with peace of mind and provide more visibility and insight into the activity in the home.

2. Stay In contact

A private phone line or cellular phone allows aging parents to stay in touch with family.  A simple phone call often provides peace of mind. Caregivers can program vital telephone numbers of family members, doctors and neighbors, into the parent's phone, so that they can speed-dial contacts when necessary. Such simple strategies can be a lifeline to the parent. 

Visits should also be planned, as face-to-face communication is especially important to aging parents. Consistent phone calls, video chats and emails allow caregivers to check on a parent’s comfort, health and happiness while letting them know they are not forgotten. 

3. Caregiver

In many instances, an aging parent may find it difficult to receive care from a stranger. However, for long-distance family members, a caregiver may be the only option available to provide the care and assistance needed. Caregivers can come in for a certain number of hours each day to assist in completing daily tasks and provide companionship. As an added benefit, some caregivers are specialized in specific conditions or treatments. This is especially beneficial if the parent suffers from a physical disease or ailment. Just be sure to do a thorough background check and verify good experiences from references.

When help is hired for a loved one, it is important to clearly communicate the needs of the parent. A clear description that specifies the expectations will ensure that the right person is chosen for the job. Also, a meeting between the caregiver, child and parent(s), even if it has to be video chat and not in person, can make everyone more comfortable, and ensure that you’re making the right choice. 

4. Mail Carrier Alert Program

In many communities, mail carriers are trained to identify signs of danger. If an aging parent lives alone, the Carrier Alert program can provide peace of mind and comfort in knowing that someone will visit the home regularly and can call for help if needed. The service is free and was designed specifically for older adults who are homebound. Caregivers can check with the local post office to see if the program is offered in the senior’s community. 

Once a senior is in the program, mail carriers will report concerns, such as accumulated trash or mail, to an agency that will complete a welfare check on the senior. 

5. Prepare for Emergencies

Even if an aging parent is in good health, an emergency plan should always be in place. It is imperative for seniors to prepare for a health crisis, as well as for other types of emergencies which may occur. An emergency fund should be available for travel expenses. Natural disaster drills should also be completed in preparation for an emergency situation. Additionally, a first aid and emergency supply kit should be easily accessible in the home. An up-to-date medication list along with a 3-6 day supply of medications should be readily available. Ice packs should also be prepared in the freezer for the emergency medical kit. 


Families are often scattered all over the world, due to work and other obligations. Additionally, many retirees are choosing to live their golden years in warmer climates, resulting in families living further apart than ever before. While it may be difficult to live a distance away from loved ones, seniors can enjoy peace of mind in knowing that there are strategies in place to help keep them happy and healthy throughout their golden years. 

When distant parents begin to exhibit signs that they are no longer able to care for themselves or adequately manage daily tasks, there are a variety of options available which to ensure that they can receive the care they need. Resources are available to help adult children effectively care for their parents from a distance.

T. Mashae Pearson - Senior Advisor

Shae is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.