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How can I help my out of state parents?

I am an only child and I live out of state, how can I best help my parents?
Status: Open    Dec 17, 2014 - 10:55 AM


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7 answers

Expert Answers

Feb 05, 2015 - 02:04 PM

An out of town child cannot do this easily from afar.

The best way to help senior parents is to ensure that you truly understand their health and quality of life issues. This is difficult to ascertain over the telephone many times. Hiring a nurse care manager to perform an initial assessment will assist you in not only isolating the problems and issues, but prioritizing them. In senior care, it is important to find the most appropriate and cost effective resources.

Another tip to best assist an out of town child is to ensure that your parents have their health care surrogate and power of attorney (POA), as well as advanced directives in place. If there is ever an emergency, the only child has the ability to act on the parents behalf even if they are long distance.

Feb 16, 2015 - 10:18 PM

I usually hear the aftermath of when a parent can't remain in their home. Some of the critical things that are necessary that a child of an aging adult does not usually have is:

1. Complete Prescription list - a detailed list of RXs and exact prescribed instructions. You would be surprised of how many times a RX is modified verbally (oh, it is ok to take half a tablet if that works) as opposed to having all instructions in writing. CA requires a 602a form to be completed for all admissisions to assisted living which will have RX list, RX instructions and a diagnosis.

2. List of Physicians - if you have to move a parent from their state to yours, do you know all their doctors and specialists? What happens once you have to make the decision? How do you change their Medicare plan? If you plan to move your loved one 37 miles from their permanent place of residence, they are in a special election period and do not have to wait until December (open enrollment). They can change their plan immediately.

3. Financial Information - this is not uncommon. Most parents don't disclose financial information. Gathering information on various bank accounts, 401k, annuities, etc can be time consuming. Especially if the loved one is a Surviving Spouse of a Veteran or Veteran or living spouse of a Veteran where benefits are available if the pass the global financial means test. You have to know what they have prior to filing.

APFM Staff Answers

Aug 12, 2015 - 03:55 PM

You may be interested in an article we have on our blog that discusses the challenges of helping parents who are out of state: Taking Care of Aging Parents, from a Distance

One of our Senior Living Advisors could also give you ideas and advice based on your parents' location also, we can be reached at 866-568-2989.



Jan 26, 2015 - 06:07 AM

I too am the only child caretaker for my 94-year old mother across the country. She still lives alone, amazingly.

The best thing I have done over the last few years has been to build upon her existing support staff. That has meant meeting and collecting the telephone numbers of her neighbors, her banker, her friends and her doctors.

I also researched the home health care services in her town (there were 2) and have hired part-time help from them to come to her home to drive her to the market, doctor's appointments or do errands. This has been a constant struggle because she always ended up accusing them of theft. I think this may have actually been true once. Otherwise I have called neighbors to occasionally knock on her door if she has forgotten to hang up the phone or if she needed help with the garbage cans for instance. Or a good friend to just stop by for a cup of tea.

The hardest part, and most expensive, is that I do need to travel to check on her fairly often. I now go every two months which is not possible for all people. This is just to calm her as well as to check to see if the part time caretakers are in fact doing their job. And I call her every day; now sometimes twice a day when she does not have a helper.

The best advice I have read or been told is that I need to let go of my sense of control too. SHE has the right to make bad decisions for herself whether or not I agree. As long as it isn't life threatening to herself or others then whatever happens, happens. It is important that she feels as much like her old self as is possible for her own peace. If she is relatively calm then so am I and I think that is the best we can ask for.


Jan 26, 2015 - 07:39 AM

I am currently trying to handle a similar situation - my parents are only two hours away but a visit usually lasts a day or three. Fortunately, my family is understanding and my work schedule is flexible so I can go in person every week or two.

You are very wise to look into this before there is a crisis.

Here are some ideas. First, you should probably consider a visit to assess the situation and lovingly discuss their individual wishes. If the topic is uncomfortable, consider making it about your peace of mind rather than firmly deciding end of life issues. Ask some open-ended 'what if' questions and see if that leads to any ideas. Do not assume you know what they want. One of my parents wants to stay at home, the other would like assisted living. Neither one wants to live with me at this time.

1. Do a little research on exactly what the options are in their area. Is there a senior center, and what does it provide? I was able to set up inexpensive local wheelchair transportation. Is Meals on Wheels available? Do your parents attend a church or other faith community that can help? Visit the AARP and A Place for Mom websites regularly for new information and ideas.

Is there a village www .vtvnetwork .org already in existence? Or look in to home services if companionship and household help are needed.

Research national, state, and local government services for seniors so you will be familiar with the options. On the Virginia state website I can see the results of continuing care and nursing home inspections. In West Virginia, I have to rely on rankings.

Even if your parents are fully independent now, you will feel better if you have some knowledge.

2. Make sure they have their wishes in writing - Powers of Attorney for financial and medical decisions, and medical directives. It may be you or someone else that holds Power of Attorney; whoever that is needs to be reachable in an emergency. If you do not hold Power of Attorney yourself, you can offer that person your contact information. Ask your parents if they want their doctors to be able to talk to you. If so, they each need to sign a form- for each doctor- allowing that to happen.
All medications and dosages should be in writing for reference. One of my parents takes 10 medications daily and that list is carried to all doctor appointments.

3. Call frequently, they need to hear your voice. And everyone likes to get mail that isn't an ad or a bill! If your parents have a computer and an internet connection, video chats and emails might be appreciated. If they are not computer savvy, there is an hp printer (dialup!) that delivers daily emails for a monthly fee, no computer required. But even with email, call sometimes!

That's about where I am now, though I have been looking at hospice rules under Medicare so I will be ready when that conversation gets started, probably sooner rather than later. My goal is to learn my parent's wishes, then keep them as safe and happy as possible.


Feb 16, 2015 - 02:42 AM

Make a special business trip to your parents. Find out what their future wishes are. Make copies of their important papers for yourself, Wills, Medical Directives, etc.. As other posts said, meet their good neighbors and get their phone numbers. Get Powers of Attorney done now. If they get Alzheimer's or Dementia applying for Guardianship is a lot more expensive and time consuming. I have experienced this myself. Best wishes

Feb 17, 2015 - 09:56 AM

All the answers make excellent suggestions. I can add to consider the future when a senior is finding it difficult to manage the day to day. Many people find short term solutions for the day to day. Looking at the big picture and where your parent is where they are going. Climate can be a large factor especially considering this recent winter.
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