Sometimes people move far away from the region in which they grew up, leaving an adult child caring for their aging parent from a distance. You may not be able to provide them with daily assistance, especially if you are caring for your own family, but you can take steps to help ensure that they are living a comfortable, healthy life. A child who lives far away from a parent also will want to check in at regular intervals to make sure that no urgent needs have arisen and that their situation remains stable.
When you are visiting your parent in person, you should talk to them about their situation and consult other people who have regular contact with your parent. These may include doctors, friends, and relatives who live in the area. You also can make your personal observations about their health and living conditions. For example, you may want to review the features of their home to make sure that they are safe and accessible. If your parent has certain physical or mental impairments, you may need to assist them with modifying their home to take those impairments into account. (Read more here about home modifications.) You should assess whether they have proper access to food and medical treatment, and whether they are still able to manage their finances effectively. You should get a general sense of your loved one’s mood and learn about their activities to make sure that they do not feel depressed or isolated and that they are living a rewarding life.
Collecting Emergency Information
You will want to make sure that your loved one has a support system in place to help them if an emergency arises. This might include friends and neighbors, as well as members of community organizations or religious organizations in which your loved one is involved. You should get the contact information of your elderly parent’s health care providers, even if you are confident that they are able to keep up with their medical needs. You should be familiar with their medications, diagnoses, and health insurance coverage. You may want to get the contact information of any lawyer who regularly assists them as well.
As people get older, they often become less able to manage their finances appropriately. You should know where to find the financial and legal documents of your parent, such as an estate plan, a financial power of attorney, and information regarding bank accounts and investment accounts. If your loved one appears to need help with managing their finances or creating legal documents, you should develop a strategy to help them in this area. (Read more here about helping parents with financial matters.)
Getting Assistance from Others
While elderly people value their independence, they sometimes may need assistance from organizations that are dedicated to meeting their needs. You may be able to help your parent find services that provide prepared meals, activities, and transportation, among other matters. In addition to getting assistance from these professionals, you should try to find people in the area whom you trust to monitor your loved one’s needs, respond in an emergency, and alert you if an issue arises. Sometimes a neighbor or a friend can handle this responsibility, or you may want to hire a geriatric care manager to develop a strategy for their care. Also, you should make sure that you check in regularly with your parent’s doctors so that you understand developments in their medical condition. This may require your parent to sign a document that authorizes doctors to share this information with you.