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Bridging the Distance: Visiting Parents in Out-of-State Assisted Living

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerMarch 9, 2016

One of the benefits of assisted living is that the community offers socialization for seniors. “Living alone can be fine for some aging seniors, but if they’re not visiting with friends or family in between that alone time, it can truly affect their health,” writes Consumer Affairs reporter Daryl Nelson. For families living in a different state than an aging parent an assisted living community is an important way to ensure their loved one is cared for, engaged and happy.

Learn more about bridging the distance by visiting parents in out-of-state assisted living.

Socializing in Assisted Living

A study by the University of California recently showed how an aging senior’s feelings of loneliness aren’t only connected to living alone.

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Researchers stated that the results of the study showed that “43% of older adults felt lonely, even though they lived with someone,” which suggests that whether an older adult lives alone, with family or in an assisted living community they still need a steady amount of support and interaction from friends and family.

When this meaningful interaction doesn’t happen, they discovered that seniors have a “59% higher risk of suffering a health decline and a 45% increased risk of dying.”

For families whose parents live in a community nearby, staying connected isn’t difficult. Regular visits help maintain existing connections and also give families an opportunity to see for themselves how their parent is doing — emotionally, mentally and physically, something that is hard to judge from a phone call.

So, what about families whose aging parents live out-of-state? Assisted living communities across the country recognize the need for seniors to maintain close connections with families, no matter the distance, which is why they offer a number of solutions for families living far apart.

Tips to Bridge the Distance and Remain Connected to Parents in Out-of-State Assisted Living

Learn more from these six tips that can help you remain connected to your parents in out-of-state assisted living:

1. Develop a Close Relationship with Staff

If you live out-of-state, it’s important to develop a close relationship with the staff who are caring for your parent. Staff at assisted living communities want to help foster and maintain the ties between their residents and their families.

Don’t be afraid to ask staff to communicate with you regularly. Schedule an email exchange or weekly phone call to learn about the news in the community and get an idea of how your parent is doing. Throughout these exchanges, consider sharing information about your parent’s interests and family traditions which will give staff the insights they need to ensure your parent is emotionally cared for.

2. Schedule Face Time with Your Parent

Whether you use Google Hangouts, Skype, or something else, it’s important to have regular face time with your parent. Although calls and email are great, the advantage of face time is that you can see for yourself how your parent is doing (it gives them the opportunity to see how you’re doing too). If you have children living at home, get them involved in the conversation so that your parent can feel connected with the entire family.

If your parent isn’t confident with technology then talk to the assisted living community about how they can help support face-to-face time. Most communities have computer-equipped libraries where staff can assist your parent with the set up and hang up of the call.

3. Look for Changes in Appearance

Since you’re far away, it’s important that when you have face time with your parent you keep your eye out for changes in their appearance. Sudden weight gain or loss could indicate a physical health concern. Senior adults who usually care for their appearance but no longer take an interest could be suffering from an emotional struggle like cognitive decline or depression.

If you notice a change, ask your parent about it and if you’re still worried, bring your observations up with staff.

4. Recognize Important Dates

Remember anniversaries and birthdays, and recognize these important dates with a call, card or email. Keeping important dates in mind shows your parent that you care, no matter how far away you are.

It’s also important to live up to your planned interactions with your parents. You’ll be surprised how much they look forward to a call, facetime or visit. If something out of your control comes up, remember to let them know that you’ll reschedule. Otherwise you risk worrying or disappointing them.

5. Stay in the Community When You Visit

Most assisted living communities have guest suites available for out-of-town families to use. These suites often have discounted rates (which are much cheaper than local hotels).

In addition to the benefit of making visiting more affordable, when you stay in your parent’s community you can experience a slice of their daily life — meeting their friends and the staff whom they’ve connected with. This will help you maintain close ties and will give you context for future communication after your visit is over.

6. Harness Parents’ Hobbies and Interests

Technology is a great tool for staying close. Find technology that supports your parents’ hobbies and interests and get involved together online. For example, if your parent loves to play Scrabble, then set up an online game with them. Games like these not only have cognitive benefits, but they allow you to play together even if you’re miles away.

Books are also a great way to stay connected. If your parent loves reading, consider starting a family book club. Use a face time application like Google Hangouts to initiate a book discussion with a number of family members and friends, no matter where in the country you live.

Reading not your parent’s thing? Sports can be streamed live anywhere over the Internet, so if your parent is a sports fan, consider watching the game with them online. Talk to the staff at your parent’s assisted living community if you need help setting these ideas in action for your parent.

Even though you live far away, with the advent of technology it’s easier than ever to stay connected with your aging parents. If your parent lives in an out-of-state assisted living community, talk to staff about how they can help you maintain strong ties. You may be surprised at how supportive they are.

How do you stay close to your aging parents in out-of-state assisted living? We’d love to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler
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