Help your aging parent; near or far

long-distance care for aging parents

Self-reliance is a source of pride for many aging parents. It’s often difficult for them to give up control after decades of managing life for themselves. It’s equally challenging for children, who may live many hours away, to know when a parent’s desire for independence is overwhelmed by difficulties managing their home, car or finances.

About 7 million adult children of aging Americans consider themselves long-distance caregivers. Caring for aging parents is a balance between empowering them to stay independent while watching for warning signs of age-related problems. We’ve pulled together seven common-sense tips to support your aging parents. 

Become a partner in their health

Many doctors and health systems have online portals to track health, tests and office visits. Ask your parent to give you delegate access so you can access health records and prescriptions. They can typically grant access through the online portal.

Coordinate care with siblings

Talk with your siblings and other family to make a plan. Working together can prevent hurt feelings, particularly if more responsibility for care falls on one family member. Consider a one-time or annual family meeting at your parent’s home to assess their needs.

Help your parents stay active

Adult children can do more harm than good by worrying parents into an overly sedate lifestyle. Climbing stairs, gardening or light yard work can help keep the mind and body sharp, at any age.

Encourage your parents to stay connected

Work hard to keep your aging parents interested in their hobbies and connected with friends. Buy them tickets to events and arrange transportation. Talk with family members who live close to your parents and encourage visits.

Help your parent complete an advance care directive

A 2015 survey of Medicare patients showed that 86 percent would prefer to live their last days at home instead of in a hospital or nursing home. Advance directives are a guide for future health care decisions in the event a person cannot make them for themselves. It enables people of any age to have more control of their end-of-life care and relieves that burden from their children. See our advance directive information for all 50 states. is a valuable resource

The Eldercare website is a well-maintained resource from the U.S. Administration on Aging. You can find services including care managers, in-home nursing, meal programs, long-term care and adult day programs.