Everyone wants to be there for mom and dad, especially when they get older. But it’s not always possible to be there physically. If you work in a different state or have moved to be near your own children, then that’s going to make the classic method of stopping in to check on mom and dad downright impossible.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do for them. Thanks to modern technology, there are lots of ways you can still make a positive impact in the lives of your loved ones. And most of the time it can all be done right from your laptop or smartphone.
Here are seven great ways to take care of elderly parents from afar that will help make it feel like you’re right there with them.
1. Schedule Communication
By far, the most important thing you can do to stay influential in your parents’ lives is to communicate with them regularly. Not only is this a great way to see for yourself how they are doing, but it also reinforces to your loved ones that you do care and truly want to be there for them.
The best way to accomplish this is to schedule regular talks at a frequency that works for both of you (daily, every other day, once per week, etc.). Remember: Older people are very routine and while you might think a spontaneous phone call is no big deal, to them it could disrupt their meal or nap schedule. That’s why planning ahead with a pre-arranged time will be more efficient for both of you.
Thankfully, the widespread availability of apps like FaceTime, Skype, or even Zoom has made communication as simple as the click of a button. Make sure your parents have a secure Wi-Fi connection setup at their house and give them a device such as an iPad or iPhone for making these calls.
Also, whenever possible, make sure the chat is by video and not just audio. Video chats will help make your calls “feel” more like a visit rather than just a phone call. Plus, from your side, this will help you to see how your parents look and potentially spot any red flags that may be developing.
2. Monitor Their Health and Whereabouts
You may think that smartwatches are just for trendy, tech-savvy teenagers. However, there are can also be a lot of practical uses that will help you to monitor the wellbeing of your elderly loved ones.
For example, the Apple Watch has the following helpful apps:
- Health monitoring – Detects heart rate and sleep patterns.
- Fall detection – Uses built-in devices to detect hard falls. Activated by default for customers over age 65.
- Emergency SOS – Lets you quickly call 911 and notifies them of your location.
- Medication reminders – Daily reminders of which pills to take.
Likewise, if there’s any potential concern about dementia, it might be smart to have cameras installed at the entry and exit points at your loved one’s house. This way you could actively monitor and even record when they leave the house.
Consumer-grade security cameras have really come down in price over the years and not nearly as complex as they once were to install. Most just simply stick or screw onto a flat surface and work off of a secure Wi-Fi connection recording everything they see to the cloud recording. They can also be set up to send screen captures every time some kind of activity is detected so you’re constantly updated.
3. Manage Their Finances
Sometimes part of caregiving is also about being there to manage regular financial transactions such as paying the utility bills or making sure the checking the account has enough money inside it. Since nearly every bank and service provider now has some way to create an online account, this can all be managed remotely right from your laptop.
The first step is to make sure you have complete access to your loved one’s accounts. Ask your parents to give you their user names and passwords so that you can log in on their behalf and manage the accounts. Pillar Life can be a big help with this as it lets you store & manage all your loved one's information in one central, access-from-anywhere dashboard.
Be sure that you’ll also have access to their email account. Often a bank may deny you access if it recognizes the computer is not at the address listed on the account, and they may send a security code to the email for verification. In addition, you’ll also be able to screen for any late notices or new notifications that you don’t immediately recognize.
4. Hire a Professional Caregiver
Depending on the severity of your elderly parents’ condition, you may wish to also hire a professional to come to their house regularly and provide for their needs. A professional caregiver could help them with their daily routine as well as keep up on making sure the house is in order. It would also give your parents someone to physically talk to and keep them company.
If hiring a caregiver is too expensive, you could also consider reaching out to a volunteer group. Check the local area to see if there active groups that can help.
5. Use a Virtual Assistant
Believe it or not, Amazon’s Alexa can do a lot more than just tell you the latest weather or play your favorite music. It can also be a very practical tool with senior citizens through a new development called “Elderly Alexa”.
With Elderly Alexa, your aging parents can ask what medicine they need to take and what they’ve already taken by saying “Alexa, medicine.” In addition to Alexa answering their question, she will also send you an email to let you know their response. This can be a great way to subtly track their activity.
6. Encourage Moving to an Assisted Living Facility
If your parents are in relatively good health and capacity but you’re worried that they might start to be feeling isolated or withdrawn, then it might be beneficial to encourage moving to an assisted living facility.
Assisted living facilities are not nursing homes. Their goal is usually to promote the independence of the elderly and only provide supplement care as needed. They generally live in apartment-style buildings with the ability to cook, clean, and do the hobbies they enjoy just like as if they were at home.
More importantly, since other senior citizens will also be present, assisted living facilities can also be a great place to regain that sense of community they might be lacking. Through various events and opportunities for socialization, your parents will have the chance to make friends and connect with people who can share in their experiences.
7. Don’t Feel Guilty
It's not uncommon to feel guilt over not physically being there to take care of your parents. However, remember you have a life too. Most of us have jobs or families of our own that need our constant support and attention. Like all things in life, you have to strike a balance between what you want to do and what your time permits.
No matter how you decide to keep in contact and take care of your loved ones remotely, don’t give in to your emotions. Talk about it openly with your spouse and friends, and reassure yourself that you’re doing the best you can to stay engaged and helpful as possible.