How to care for your aging parents when you don’t live nearby

Investing and Retirement Planning 

Making sure that your parents are getting the healthcare and support they need as they get older can be a tough job. But living far away from them makes that tough job even more complicated. When you don’t see your parents regularly, it can be harder to tell if something is amiss. They may sound fine on the phone, but what can you do to be sure they’re healthy and safe?

There are a number of steps you can take, including enlisting the help of an advocate located near your parents’ home, to ensure that their health and social support needs are being met. The best plan is to start talking with them about these issues before there’s a crisis situation.

Start by visiting to get a first-hand understanding of the situation

  • Arrange to visit for several days to a week so you can accurate gauge how they fare with day-to-day activities like cooking, shopping, filling prescriptions and taking medications, driving, and financial tasks like paying bills.
  • If possible (and if your parents are willing), visit their primary care doctor with them and have them add you to the list of people with whom medical information can be shared. Provide your number as an emergency contact. And have the doctor provide a list of your parents’ current diagnoses, medications, any allergies, and a copy of their health history.
  • Check their home to make sure it’s safe.

Gather key information and contacts

  • Get phone numbers for your parents’ neighbors and friends, and share your number so they can contact you if they notice any potential issues/concerns or if there’s an emergency. It can also be helpful to share your number with someone at their place of worship.
  • Compile a list of contact information for all their physicians and their pharmacy.
  • Find out contact information for their financial advisors and legal counsel, if they have them.
  • Ask your parents to share where they keep their financial and legal information including wills, power of attorney, and advance directive documents; as well as their retirement and investment accounts, bank and credit card accounts, information about loans, titles to property and vehicles, insurance information, and safety deposit boxes.

Make a plan with siblings and other family members

  • Caring for your parents can be an intense and time-consuming job. If you have siblings or other family members, talk with them and ask for help checking in on your parents and handling tasks like touching base with physicians and other caregivers.
  • Consider working with a geriatric care manager or personal health advisor located near your parents. These individuals can coordinate care, make sure health records are up-to-date and shared with the appropriate physicians, check to avoid medication interactions and errors, and ensure follow-up appointments and tests occur in a timely manner. Many are also available to attend appointments with your parents to serve as a ‘second set of ears,’ provide information about treatment options for any health issues your parents face, and arrange second opinions.

While your goal is to help your parents be as healthy as possible as they grow older, remember that the stress of caregiving can affect your health as well. Make sure you get regular preventive care and screenings, work to manage stress, eat a healthy diet and make time for exercise.

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This article originally appeared on PinnacleCare is a private health advisory firm that provides support for a broad range of healthcare needs and assistance with health risk management and planning. PinnacleCare is offered through an unaffiliated third party. Truist Bank and its affiliates and the directors, officers, employees and agents of Truist Bank and its affiliates (collectively, "Truist") do not provide health care or health care advice and are not soliciting personal health information in any way. You should do your own research or due diligence to satisfy yourself as to the qualifications of any medical professional.