Long Distance Love: Caring For Your Aging Parents From Afar

bespectacled parents - _MG_2756.JPG

My husband and I are coping with an elderly parent. It’s tricky because the age gap makes it hard to grill him about his health needs. It’s even more complicated when you factor in his lackadaisical response to his medical care. It’s downright impossible at times because he’s not our father.

Our friend is just one of the millions of Baby Boomers who are heading into retirement kicking and screaming, and every day there are more of them coming along. Right now there are about 40 million senior citizens in the United States and the median age of an American is almost 36 years old. This trend is going to continue in the future, as the senior citizen population is expected to skyrocket over the next few decades. By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be more than 89 million seniors in this country.

Those numbers are staggering, but it doesn’t solve the problem of individuals. My friend lives here and has no interest in moving. His children live in another state and can’t move. It’s a frustrating situation for everyone concerned that finally came to a head when I stopped by his house one night to find him staggering and slurring his words as if he were drunk. Luckily, I knew he was a diabetic and assumed (correctly) that his blood sugar was off. A little juice got him fixed right up, but it got me thinking about the long term consequences and how to get my friend to take better care of himself.

Our problem was solved when his eldest daughter came to visit a month or two later. I broached the subject with her and explained what had happened. We then exchanged information with each other so that my husband or I could let her know if there was an emergency. Since then we’ve only had to contact her once, but the situation makes everyone happy. Our friend doesn’t respond well to our nagging but he listens when his daughter talks. We’re able to keep our relationship as friends instead of caregivers and his family is able to breathe a tiny bit easier knowing that he lives near people who genuinely love and care for him.

If you have an elderly parent that you’re worried about but can’t live with, the Mayo Clinic has some excellent advice on how to provide long-term care long distance.

Mom, Dad, and Derek at Fairmont YVR

  1. Get organized- Gather your loved one’s insurance information, account numbers or other data you might require in an emergency.
  2. Schedule a family meeting to discuss your goals and split up duties. Include your parent in this so they won’t feel out of control.
  3. Do your research. Find out if your parent has an illness and how to treat it.
  4. Keep in touch with their caregivers. You may need to have your parent sign a release form so that their medical care can be discussed with you legally.
  5. Ask their friends for help. Many times people want to help and they’re just waiting for you to ask them.
  6. Plan for an emergency. Set aside some money in case you need to make an unexpected trip.

As our society grows older and more mobile, there are going to be even more people in our friend’s place. If you’re a child of an aging parent, you can find more ways to cope by searching online. If you’re a neighbor of an elderly person, I encourage you to get to know them. You might just wind up with one of the best friends you’ve ever had.

Story credit

Photo credit: Bespectacled parents – _MG_2756.JPG by sean dreilingerMom, Dad, and Derek at Fairmont YVR by Derek K. MillerUsed under a Creative Commons license.


This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.