Helpful tips when caregiving from a distance

As the world becomes globalized, families find themselves dispersed throughout different cities, provinces, and even countries.  Brothers and sisters move away from their parents, often for work, and then establish their own lives and families.  Living more than an hour away can make it a challenge to visit parents as often as you might like. As parents age and need extra support, what are we to do when our parents need us, but due to time and distance we cannot physically be there?

Caregiving from a Distance

Caregiving from a distance: Establishing your care team

First things first – you need to identify the key people in your parents’ lives.  Do they have a close friend or neighbour?  Who is their family doctor?  Do they go to church or synagogue and if so, is there a pastoral care team that offers volunteer support?  Organize the names and contact information for these people – hopefully they will become your care team.

Unless you have siblings nearby who are able to care for your parents, you are likely going to need to hire companies to provide the hands-on care to ensure your parents are safe, comfortable and living in a dignified way.  Perhaps your mother is able to do most activities of daily living, but is unable to drive or use public transportation.

 There are transportation companies that will pick up seniors, escort them to the appointment, and return them back home safe and sound.  A company that we recommend here in Toronto is called “Driving Miss Daisy” ( – an excellent resource for people who are caregiving from a distance.

  When seeking a company to provide transportation services, be sure to ask about their insurance.  It is critical that they have the right insurance to cover any accidents or incidentals that may occur while in transit.

Caregiving from a distance: Create an Emergency Call System

Another very important component to your plan should be a personal emergency call system that will act as a link to family, friends, and medical help so that your parents can remain living at home and independent.  This type of system will give your mom and dad access to reliable technology, and a customized medical alarm service that provides them with peace of mind and a feeling of control.

 This is an essential home service for seniors who live alone.  There are different companies for you to choose from and we have had client satisfaction from an Ottawa-based company called Smart Link. They work with local representatives who will go to your dad’s home and ensure everything is set up and ready to go.

Caregiving from a distance: Hiring a Company for Extra Help

If your mom or dad will require additional help with activities of daily living, you need to consider hiring a home healthcare company to provide them with the right support.  Before calling a private company, you should call to see if your parents qualify for support from a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).  CCAC is your first point of contact for information about seniors’ care, and can provide information about the kinds of care that are available in your mom and dad’s area.

The CCACs were established by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in 1996, to help the public access government-funded home and community services and Long-Term Care Homes. There are 14 CCACs throughout Ontario.  Their website is and can be reached toll-free in Ontario by calling 310-2222 (CCAC).

Caregiving from a distance: When choosing a home health care company, you should consider the following:

  • Does the company have a Registered Nurse or Dementia Consultant that works with your parents?
  • What services will the company provide?
  • Home support (house-keeping, meal preparation, laundry, errands)
  • Personal Care (hygiene, bathing, toileting, incontinence briefs)
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s care
  • Companionship
  • Do you have to sign a contract?
  • What type of notice do you have to give to cancel care?
  • Can care be provided in the hospital or retirement residence as well as at home?
  • How will you be updated about the ongoing care of your mom and dad?

We recommend calling at least three companies to get a sense of their communication style and attention to detail.  You want to feel comfortable that your parents are in capable and compassionate hands and that you can rely on them should things change.  An attentive home care company will become your “right hand” and help you coordinate with others close to your parents.

The best understanding of the care your parents need comes from seeing them yourself.  Scheduling a trip home to see your parents and get a first-hand look at how they are coping with their health and lifestyle is the most effective way to help them.

Setting up a support system while you are visiting your parents, meeting caregivers, and speaking to people directly will give you the peace of mind that you need, knowing that your parents are safe, healthy, and coping with their elderly years.