Living far away from your aging parent can be difficult, but there are many ways to bridge the geographic and emotional gap. Focus on what you can do to support your loved one rather than feeling guilty about not being there.

Here are some tips to help you play a valuable role in caregiving and contribute to your parent’s well being:

1. Make a plan

Have a meeting with all of your family members and friends that could potentially be involved in caregiving. Create a list of needs, including practical concerns like food, housekeeping and personal care. Also consider legal and medical questions like establishing a power of attorney for financial and medical decisions. This plan will evolve as needs change, but it’s best to have a clear starting point so everyone understands his or her role.

2. Stay in touch

As busy as you are, remember that your loved one may have little to do and could be feeling lonely or isolated. That’s why it’s important to check in often and stay connected, whether it’s through phone calls, emails, cards in the mail or even video chats. Encourage others to do the same.

3. Become an expert

Thanks to the Internet, you can become an expert on services and resources that could be useful for your loved one—no matter where you live. This could include anything from Meals on Wheels and driving services to medical supplies and local park district and library programs. Offering to do research will be a great help to those living in town.

4. Handle the paperwork

While other family members may be more immediately available to your loved one, you can serve a valuable role by managing the paperwork. This might mean paying monthly bills, keeping track of doctor appointments or managing medical expenses and bills. You could even take over grocery and household shopping by using a local delivery service if a caregiver or family member provides you with a regular list.

5. Be at the ready

Have a plan in place that allows you to visit mom or dad on short notice in case of an emergency or change in their health. Keep an emergency fund for last minute trips. Plus, have a back up plan for your everyday concerns like childcare, pet sitting and work responsibilities. Don’t forget that the Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take unpaid leave if you need to take time off work.

6. Hire a professional

If your parent’s need for assistance increases, consider hiring a professional caregiver. Having someone in the house, whether part-time or 24/7, can make life better for your loved one and give you peace of mind. Reach out to a reputable home care agency, like Home Care Angels, to discuss your needs. They offer a range of services, from hourly to live-in care, from running errands to cooking meals, from helping with the activities of daily living to simply keeping your loved one company.

Home Care Angels provides assistance with daily activities, such as dressing, eating and personal care, from home service aides. Please call 847.824.5221 to speak with one of our Client Care Coordinators if you would like more information on in-home care.