19 April, 2023

Living far away from an ageing parent with declining health can be stressful for everyone involved.

It’s important to find a balance that prioritises your elderly parent’s wellbeing while being mindful of your own wellbeing, too.

We’ll share a few steps you can take to be there for your elderly parent when you can’t physically be there.


1.      Listen to their wants and needs.

Ageism, which is discrimination against a person based on their age, appears in familial relationships when a person’s own wishes are ignored.

Sometimes, family members assume the role of decision-making based on their loved one’s age, but transfer of control and decision-making is often unwanted by the older person.

Before making any decisions or assumptions, it’s best to discuss your ageing parent’s wishes, concerns, and needs.


2.      Explore different care and living arrangement options.

Since you’re living far away, you may have to consider other options to make sure your parent gets the care they need. Discuss with your parent, with your family, and with health experts to make the right decision together.

Here are some leading questions to navigate these discussions:

  1. Will my parent have a community or a support system wherever they live?
  2. What care can other family members realistically provide?
  3. How much extra help does my parent need?
  4. What concerns does my parent have?
  5. Where does my parent want to live?
  6. What are my parent’s boundaries?
  7. What about my parent’s pets?
  8. What concerns do I have?
  9. What can we afford?

Care options may include an aged care facility, an in-home caretaker or nurse, or a division of responsibilities amongst family and friends.

Remember that your ageing parent’s needs can drastically change over time, so this discussion should be revisited regularly.


3.      Have an emergency plan.

Emergencies concerning elderly parents are especially stressful when you’re long-distance. Having a plan in case of emergencies can mitigate that stress and help you and your parent be prepared.

An emergency plan may include:

  1. Exchanging contact information with your parent’s GP, nurses, caretakers, and neighbours.
  2. Having someone ready to look after your children or pets if you need to leave.
  3. Arranging an emergency folder with all of your parent’s essential documents.
  4. Backup plans for care and living arrangements in case of changing needs.
  5. Print an emergency care directive and hang it on your parent’s fridge.
  6. Assigning roles amongst siblings and other family members.
  7. Getting your parent a personal emergency alarm.
  8. Pre-packing a travel bag.


4.      Stay in touch with them and with someone close to them.

These days, staying in touch while long-distance is easier than ever.

Staying connected with your parent will help you keep up with their wellbeing. Plus, empathetic phone calls have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety in older adults.

Here are some tips to teach technology to your elderly parent to help them stay in touch.

You can also schedule regular calls with your parent’s caretaker, nurse, or neighbour. Keeping regular contact with these key people can keep you in the loop and may also help you look out for potential signs of elder abuse.


5.      Be considerate of your own mental health, too.

Being far away from your ageing parent is a unique type of grief. It’s natural to feel sad, stressed, worried, or pressured.

Remember to look after your own mental health. You may find a support system with friends or colleagues who are going through a similar situation. Indulge in self-care, meditate, seek counselling, discuss with friends, and engage in hobbies.

Being long-distance with an ageing parent is tough, but with strategic planning and open communication, your parent’s wellbeing can be managed.


If you or an older family member you know need some help resolving an issue, our experienced counsellors are here to help. We can help you explore your concerns and possible solutions in a safe and supportive environment.

You can learn more about our Elder Mediation Support Service here, or call 1300 063 232.


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