Finding the Best Care for a Senior When You Live Far Away

by Marie Villeza

Photo by Pixabay


When your elderly loved one is in need of extra help, it can be a frightening and frustrating time — for both of you. But when that loved one lives far away, it’s  even more difficult. You need to find a place to take care of your loved one, but you can’t be there every day to make sure everything goes smoothly. If you do enough research and prep, you can be confident of your decision.

First, you have to know the different types of care facilities. Here are some of the options available.

Assisted living — This is for people who need help in one or two activities per day, such as dressing or bathing. The staff at an assisted living facility will keep an eye on their residents in case of emergency. They often serve meals in a central location, and will have more mobile seniors than in other facilities. They can help arrange transportation to medical appointments, too. If you need a nurse’s help, you may have to hire visiting nurses.

Memory care — This is for people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care usually has tighter security measures to keep residents from wandering off.

Skilled nursing — This is for people who need nursing help every day, are confined to their bed or have more complicated behavior issues. This what is commonly called a nursing home.

Choosing a place

When you tour a facility, you’ll start with an administrator who will show you around and give you the official tour. But come back another time and see it for yourself. A good time to visit is in the morning, when the staff are getting patients out of bed. Pay attention to the demeanor of the staff. Are they smiling and courteous to each other as well as patients? Do they know patients by name? Do the residents seem happy to see the staff? Visit again in mid-day to see if the residents are active. Some won’t be, of course, but the ones who are should be participating in activities. Look for a homey feel, not so much like a hospital. Overstuffed couches, a library, a cozy dining room and animals like birds and fish give residents a reason to smile.

Ask if the specific needs of your loved one can be met. Find out if residents can bring their own furniture so they feel more at home. Are there religious services available or are the residents taken off-site? What types of activities are available? Is there a daily routine for people with dementia? Does a doctor visit regularly? Ask the staff if they work a lot of overtime or take extra shifts, as this can be a sign of a staffing shortage.


All levels of care are expensive, so cost might be a factor in your decision. If your loved one has long-term care insurance or the means to pay for it, then the decision is much easier. But without it, costs are very high. Assisted living begins around $3,600 a month, and skilled nursing can cost as much as $10,000 a month.

Most people begin their nursing care by paying out of pocket. As resources dwindle, they become eligible for Medicaid, and that can help pay for care. But Medicaid has strict requirements for what’s covered, including requiring a roommate. Check if the facility takes both private pay and Medicaid, so that your loved one doesn’t have to change facilities later. And keep in mind that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term facilities. Comb through your loved one’s finances to find ways to stretch his or her funds. For extra help, utilize online calculators and budget worksheets.

Budget and careful planning will also be necessary when it’s time to help your senior loved one downsize and prepare for this type of move. If it’s feasible, hire movers to help make this process a quick and smooth one. In the end, it will benefit your loved one and give you more time to focus on helping them settle into their new living space.


Once you find the best option for your senior loved one, make sure the facility understand that you’ll be checking in from afar, and that you won’t be able to drop everything and be there for small things. Most facilities should be familiar with situations like yours.

You should also be able to talk to your loved one at almost any time. Regular phone calls and communication remind your loved one that you are there and you love them. If your senior loved one is in a position to use video calls, this is a great way to connect when you can’t be close by. By actually seeing someone on the other end, you can get a better sense of how your loved one is doing and they will find comfort in your friendly face.

Making this sort of transition can be a difficult step for everyone in involved, which is why it’ so important to apply careful planning. You can help your senior loved one find a comfortable, caring environment where they can enjoy this chapter of their lives, even if you’re not close by. Not only will your loved one have peace of mind, but so will you.


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