Caring For an Elderly Parent When You Live Out of State
Just a few generations ago, it was common for young adults to continue living in the community in which they grew up, close to friends and family who did the same. Grandparents helped to care for grandchildren, and when they themselves grew older and in need of help, their children and grandchildren were nearby to offer the needed support.
These days, elderly parents may still need personal and practical assistance, but it’s much more likely that family members live far away. That’s a simple reality of our mobile society: children may move away from their hometown for job opportunities, and seniors themselves may move away to retire somewhere warmer than where they raised their family.
Caring for elderly parents out of state is a challenge. If you find yourself in the difficult position of worrying about an aging parent from several states away, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone, and that help is available to help both you and your parent navigate the challenges you are facing.
Taking Care of Elderly Parents Long Distance
If you have an elderly parent living alone, or with an aging spouse, there are a lot of things you may worry about: their physical safety, their ability to drive or use public transportation, their finances, and their emotional and mental health.
If your parent or parents are doing okay on their own at the moment, don’t put off discussing your concerns with them. They deserve to have as much control over how their future unfolds as possible. Ask them if they have made plans for the future when they may need more help, or thought about what they might want.
Are they willing to move closer to you? Would they consider a retirement community or assisted living rather than living in their own house? How will they know when they need help (and how willing will they be to accept it)? What are their support systems like? Even if they don’t have family around, do they have connections in the community—friends or neighbors who can help them?
If your parents don’t have an estate plan, it’s important for them to make one that includes durable financial and medical powers of attorney so that someone they have chosen can step in to help with their important decisions when needed. Otherwise, if they become incapacitated, it may be necessary to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed.
Having this difficult discussion before problems arise is best. However, it’s common for adult children to realize that their parent needs help when a crisis occurs: there has been a fall or other urgent health issue; they discover that mom or dad’s bills have gone unpaid; or an unscrupulous person has financially exploited their parents, leaving them in a precarious position. In those cases, urgent help may be needed. And even if a son or daughter has power of attorney, they may not be able to provide all the help needed from a distance.
Managing an Elderly Parent’s Finances From Out of State
For various reasons, it may not work to have a friend or family member manage a senior’s finances. There may simply be no one available, or available helpers may not have the time or skill to appropriately serve in that role. Unfortunately, there are also situations in which an available helper may not be fully trusted, forcing distant family members to choose between leaving a parent with no nearby help, or exposing them to potential exploitation.
Fortunately, there is a third option, of which many people are not aware. A professional fiduciary can help a senior with everything from paying bills to managing investments. Fiduciaries are obligated to serve the best interests of the person they are assisting, and have the financial knowledge to do so. They also keep detailed records of their actions, so that family members can be assured that their elderly parent’s resources are in good hands.
What to Do When a Parent Can’t Live Alone
If you are concerned that your mom or dad is no longer able to live on their own, the first thing to do is to assess their needs. Might they be able to remain in the home with support, and if so, what level of support is needed? Do they need other living arrangements? Some facilities offer progressive care: independent living with some support, assisted living for those who need extra help, and finally nursing home or memory care for those who need extensive care. Residents can enter the facility at one level of care and progress to other levels as needed.
An attorney who regularly works with seniors and is familiar with elder law issues can help you evaluate the type of care your elderly parent may need, options for paying for care, and develop a checklist for moving elderly parents. To learn more about taking care of elderly parents long distance, contact Suzanne R. Fanning, PLLC to schedule a consultation.