Caring for elderly parents is already challenging. But factor in living across town or out of state, and the situation can become more difficult. Thankfully, there are ways to take care of an elderly parent and ease your guilt of being away from them while ensuring they receive the level of care they need as they age.

What to Do if You Can’t Take Care of an Elderly Parent?

Divide and Conquer Important Tasks

The first step you should take is to regroup with your family, either in person or virtually. This includes not only your parent, but also their spouse, your spouse, your siblings, and any other close family members. You should not feel like you have to tackle everything on your own, so this is the time to discuss everyone’s strengths and work on dividing up care.

Some tasks you can delegate during the meeting include paying bills, managing finances, finding transportation as needed, looking up local home repair options, searching the internet for senior activities in their area, and more. You should also discuss the process of making major decisions and who has written permission (power of attorney) from your parent to receive important medical and financial information. Ensure that everyone is on the same page about who will handle what and when.

Encourage Social Activities

As we age and experience more health and mobility issues, we tend to shy away from seeing friends and participating in the activities we enjoy. Encourage your elderly mother or father to call friends and meet up with them. Ask if they’re working on any hobbies or attending church or local events. If you find they’re turning inward and staying at home more often, figure out why. It could be a mental block or a more serious health issue they haven’t yet shared with you.

Set Boundaries

Another important factor in caring for aging parents is setting boundaries. You may find that they lean on you for every single need or contact you at inopportune times. This could be your payback from your teenage years, or they may feel less confident in making decisions for themselves. You must be patient with older adults as you figure it out, but don’t be afraid to set some boundaries. Hopefully, they will have other people to lean on like we’re about to discuss in the next section.

Ask Friends for Help

Again, don’t feel like you have to tackle every need, especially since you’re not living close to your parent. In addition to family members who can help out, find out who your parent’s friends are. They may be able to drop off groceries, bring coffee for a morning visit, or take them to a local event. You can also ask if they know their neighbors. They might be able to help with things like shoveling a snowy driveway and keeping an eye on the safety of their house.

Create a List of Contacts for Home Needs

It’s also important to have a list of important, reputable contacts on hand for things like home maintenance and housekeeping, landscaping, medical needs, home health aides, etc. Whether your parent needs regular assistance or you’re concerned about a potential need arising, it’s good to know of people in the area who have been recommended by their friends or neighbors.

Visit Your Aging Parent

No matter how far away you live, you should try to visit your parent in person as often as possible—even if it’s once a year. Not only will you get quality face-to-face time with them, but you can also assess their living situation in person.

Schedule Calls

When you can’t visit in person, schedule regular video calls or phone calls. With technology today, you can even invite other family members to join at the same time. You can chat, play games, watch a movie together, and more.

Reasons Might Prevent You From Caring For Your Parents

Everyone’s relationship with their parents is different. Some people are navigating stubborn elderly parents who refuse care, and others may be trying to navigate a strained or traumatic parent-child relationship. Life is complex, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re unable or unwilling to care for your elderly parent.

Elderly parents can refuse help for several reasons. They may be struggling to accept the realities of aging, worried about losing their sense of independence, or have memory issues that make understanding their choices difficult. Caregivers can help make the transition to in-home care easier, getting to know your parents and establishing a relationship of trust.

If you’ve endured abuse from your parents in the past, you may have complex feelings when it comes to shouldering the burden of their care. You shouldn’t have to face your abuser if you don’t want to, which is why in-home care services can be a powerful resource that allows you to preserve your mental health.

Financial / Time Restriction Problems

When you’re trying to pay your own bills, support your own children, or are on a tight budget, caring for your aging parents can be financially out of the question. You may not have the time or energy to take on another job to be able to afford to care for them yourself. Sometimes that’s the reality, and you shouldn’t feel guilty while you’re trying to juggle all of your current responsibilities.

Attending to your own responsibilities, from work to children to your own well-being, can sometimes take up most of your available time. If you’re low on energy and pressed for time, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to adequately care for your parents.

Am I Obligated To Take Care Of My Aging Parents?

There are 30 states within the US that have filial responsibility laws stating that adult children have a legal responsibility to care for their impoverished parents when they are no longer able to do so themselves. If your parents have low income, they may qualify for certain state-sponsored benefits and programs.

These laws typically take effect only if your parents receive financial support from the government or if they are unable to pay their nursing home or hospital bills. To avoid potential legal ramifications, having a care plan in mind for your parents ahead of time is key.

If you can’t care for your parents, there are other care options for your elderly parents. In-home care is a great option because it’s often the most flexible and cost-effective. You can also hire a caregiver for help, consider a nursing home or assisted living facility, ask family for support, and explore your legal options and state resources.

Here’s some practical guidance on facing and coping with the guilt that comes with being a remote caregiver.

1. Accept that you will feel guilt at times

Feel like you should be doing more? That’s OK. We all do. Acknowledge these emotions associated with guilt, process them, and work to let them go. That may seem easier said than done, but it helps to know what your strengths are as a long-distance caregiver and also accept that there are real limits to what you can do from afar.

2. Come up with a communication plan

You may not be able to visit your loved one regularly, but call, arrange a video chat, write, or find other personal ways to show you care. Don’t be afraid to talk to your parent about realistic expectations for how you can help.

3. Redefine ‘caring’

While you may not be able to be there physically, take solace in the fact that what you can do from a distance matters. Identifying what you’re best equipped to handle is another discussion to have with an elderly parent. The next step is finding ways to fill the gaps that matter most to your loved one, possibly by hiring a senior caregiver.

Again, potential members of the caregiving team need to be realistic about what they can and can’t do and the frequency of their involvement. If there are obvious gaps, other caregiver support team members should be recruited.

4. Reconcile issues from the past

Longstanding resentments and unresolved issues can worsen remote caregiver guilt. If there are old wounds, it’s time to forgive and/or seek forgiveness. Maybe dad wasn’t home much when you were a child, and there’s still some lingering hurt. Maybe mom seemed to favor a younger sister, who isn’t available to help shoulder caregiving duties. Now may be the time to finally set those rifts aside or have a heart-to-heart, knowing that the past can’t be undone and that your parent needs you.

5. Support the primary caregiver

If another sibling lives close by and handles most of the caregiving, your guilt may be multiplied. Perhaps your sibling is resentful of your distance or maybe you truly long to be closer and more helpful. Support the primary caregiver with words of encouragement, a listening ear, and financial support, if possible. Don’t let shame prevent you from reaching out with loving support.

6. Focus on love, not duty

Do your best to be motivated by love and compassion versus obligation. Caregiving can be a positive experience, as it can redefine a relationship with a parent or strengthen relationships with siblings. Maybe it’s time to dig up old family photos to inspire memory sharing that will remind everyone why you’re here and why you want to help.

7. Inspire independence

As your loved one ages and becomes dependent on others, they may begin to feel more vulnerable and start doubting their own self-sufficiency. Help alleviate those feelings by encouraging your parents to connect with friends, explore new hobbies, and enjoy their current life.

8. Set healthy boundaries

Your mom, dad, family, or friends may say or do things that seem to provoke guilt. Don’t engage them. Listen, love, and redirect the conversation to a neutral topic.

9. Create a care community

There’s a classic saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”, and the same ideology holds true when caring for an aging parent. This isn’t a job for only one person. You and your loved one will benefit from creating a community of care. Whether you connect with a compassionate professional respite caregiver, a religious organization, a neighbor, or a senior care advisor, there are ways to provide additional assistance for a loved one from a distance and gain peace of mind.

Start by finding and contacting a nearby Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for helpful resources, such as meal delivery programs, community outreach, senior centers, and public services.

10. Make time for yourself

It may feel like the impossible, but it’s hard to be a good caregiver when your own wellness tank is empty. Talk with close friends, siblings, and other family members about your feelings, find a caregiver support group, or get professional help if you’re overwhelmed. Caring for an elderly parent can feel like a lonely job, but there are others who are in the same situation and ready to lend a hand or ear.

Additional Reading: How Do You Deal with Difficult Aging Parents?

Promedcare

Being a family-owned business, the owners of Promedcare are engaged in the day-to-day operations and get to know both clients and caregivers on a first-name basis. Having both owners and staff present vs. working remotely with our clients creates a feel of FAMILY and allows Promedcare to create an environment of care that reduces turnover and increases dedication to the brand. We provide 24/7 service with the ability to interact with Senior Management and the owners as needed.

Promedcare has evolved into a caring business that focuses on individuals’ specific needs and preferences. This type of care fosters independence, happiness, and a sense of familiarity by acknowledging older individuals’ desire to age in the comfort of their own homes.

For some, it’s to provide extensive ongoing care for an aging senior. For others, we offer a much-needed break or, respite care – such as a night out with a spouse, vacation, or simply a few hours of quiet time at home – for family caregivers. As a leading home care agency in Nebraska, we offer a wide range of care services customized for each individual client.

Promedcare services include Personal Care Services, Companion Care Services, Dementia / Alzheimer’s Care Services, and Respiratory Solutions.

Contact us today to see how Prodmedcare can help you!