Unfortunately, more adult children live far away from their aging parents than ever before. When it becomes clear that mom or dad needs help, the thought of not being there for them can be very stressful. To make matters worse, they may not tell you the truth when you ask about their well-being. They are after all the parent, and they’ve spent your life worrying about you. They simply may not want to worry their child, especially one living far away.
If you have siblings who live close to your parent, they will probably by default end up as the primary care givers. Most siblings in this situation will appreciate it if you maintain frequent contact with them and make serious efforts to find ways to contribute. If they are raising their own family or their work leaves time at a premium, discussing the decisions to be made and supporting the decisions they make regarding your parent’s care will give them relief. It is a difficult and unfortunately common situation for the primary caregiver to feel abandoned by their siblings in this case. Ask your sibling what kind of support would be helpful. Often in these circumstances, family members who live at a distance contribute a larger share to any financial efforts, or sometimes come to pitch in for a week or two to give the primary caregiver a break.
If you don’t have siblings in the area, ask relatives who do live close by or your parent’s friends or former neighbors to visit them in assisted living. This will probably give mom or dad welcome company, and also give you a chance to hear from a third party how they’re doing. Talking to anyone who your parent knows, trusts, and speaks with regularly will help you sort through what they may actually need. People who can visit often will see potential health issues or other problems that your parent doesn’t want to discuss directly with you. ,
Get involved with, and stay involved with, your parent’s medical care. If your sibling is the primary caregiver, let them know you want to be a part of this. It’s important to understand the conditions your aging parent has, the medications used to treat them, as well as possible side effects.
It goes without saying that you will want to visit your aging parent as often as you can. The guilt often associated with living far away can be alleviated to a degree by maintaining contact. While it is not the same as being there, especially in the case of illness, these steps will give you the basis to be involved in your parent’s care and life.