As your parents, grandparents and other family members get older, they’re going to need a little more help with day-to-day tasks. Many adults find themselves stepping into the role of caregiver as their elderly relatives begin needing more and more assistance. When you don’t live near that loved one, you may feel like it’s not possible to be a caregiver. However,  there are still ways that you can lend support, and you’re not alone. An increasing number of people find themselves not only taking on the role of caregiver, but doing it from a distance.

There are a number of reasons why you might find yourself in the position of long-distance caregiver. First, more seniors want to stay home as they age rather than move into senior living, and the pandemic caused this number to go up even more. In the 2021 Home and Community Preferences Survey from AARP, researchers found that 77% of adults aged 50 and older don’t want to go to a senior care facility. Rather, they want to remain in their homes for the long term. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges to seniors and their caregivers; many were not able to be with their loved ones due to travel restrictions, quarantining and fear of unknowingly bringing the virus to their vulnerable seniors. But it also brought about  new technology and more older adults being willing to use technology in order to connect with family members. Families began to use video chat to stay connected while sheltering in place. Doctors started taking patients remotely for minor care needs. That technology remains available, and it can help long-distance caregivers better serve their loved ones from afar.

This guide  helps long-distance caregivers understand what assistance is available to them and how to use that assistance to best meet the needs of the seniors in their lives. It also provides practical contact information for the programs and services seniors and their caregivers need.

An Overview of Long-Distance Caregiving

An Overview of Long-Distance Caregiving

A long-distance caregiver is someone who has the primary responsibility of caring for a senior or other adult in need of care but doesn’t live near enough to stop by regularly and visit. The actual distance doesn’t impact this definition. If the distance is far enough that in-person visits are difficult, typically an hour or more of driving time, then you’re a long-distance caregiver. The 2020 Caregiving in the United States survey found that 11% of family caregivers fit this definition.

People Who Are Commonly Long-Distance Caregivers

Many kinds of people may find themselves in the role of long-distance caregiver. Some of them include:

  • Adult children of a senior
  • Close friend of a senior
  • Niece or nephew of a senior
  • Sibling of a disabled adult
  • Adult grandchild of a senior

Typically, long-distance caregivers are relatives of someone in need of care, but anyone can fulfill this role if they are close enough to the senior. 

Challenges of Long-Distance Caregiving

Being a long-distance caregiver requires careful planning and time management, and it comes with some challenges. In this role, you’re providing a similar level of care and attention as someone who lives near a loved one, but you can’t physically be there. Thus, you need to get creative and use technology so you can meet those needs.

Sometimes, long-distance caregiving increases the financial responsibility of the caregiver. You might need to pay for services you can’t provide for your loved one yourself, and you’ll need to travel occasionally to visit. That could include the cost of airfare, depending on how far away you live.

Finally, there may be a higher level of stress when caregiving over a long distance. Since your responsibilities are similar to those of a nearby caregiver but you can’t see your loved one regularly, you may feel increased pressure. Thankfully, many available resources for caregivers can make this stress less intense.

Benefits of Being a Long-Distance Caregiver

It’s easy to think of the challenges of a long-distance caregiving role, but there are also some perks to consider. For instance, when you’re providing care from far away, you may not have as many day-to-day demands on your time. You need to find people to provide the daily care needs since that person can’t be you. This distance can make it easier to practice self-care because you physically cannot provide all the care your loved ones need. You can schedule your time to ensure you’re protecting your own needs, which is often very difficult for in-person caregivers to do. 

Another benefit to being a long-distance caregiver is the satisfaction you’ll feel knowing that you’re providing important help to the senior you care about so they can remain comfortably at home.

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Long-Distance Caregiver?

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Long-Distance Caregiver?

Being a long-distance caregiver means knowing what can and can’t be done from afar. There are limitations when you can’t be in the home caring for your loved one regularly, and you need to know what these are.

Roles and Responsibilities

First, understand the roles and responsibilities of a senior caregiver. Keep in mind that your duties will depend on how much help your loved one needs and how much they can do independently. Some common responsibilities include:

  • Assisting with personal care, such as bathing and grooming
  • Preparing meals
  • Taking care of general health care, including scheduling medical appointments and ensuring medication is taken
  • Assisting with mobility, either inside the home or out in  the community
  • Supervising the senior in their home to ensure they’re safe
  • Providing emotional support for the senior
  • Advocating for the senior when interacting with family care partners and care team  providers
  • Keeping the home organized and safe
  • Handling medical emergencies

What Can You Do From Afar?

There are some responsibilities you can handle without being physically present. For instance, you can schedule medical appointments over the phone and provide emotional support with a video call or phone call. You can also oversee the people in the local area who are assisting your loved one. If you’re taking care of financial needs, online and mobile banking make it easy to maintain your loved one’s household bills from a distance. 

What You Cannot Do From Afar

Some seniors’ needs require in-person care, and you’ll need to figure out an arrangement for these. For instance, you can’t prepare meals if you aren’t physically present, nor can you help with grooming and dressing. Other things you can’t help with from afar include:

  • Transportation
  • Cleaning
  • Home maintenance
  • Medication management and monitoring

How To Get Help with Your Caregiving Duties

If you’re the primary caregiver and can’t manage some of these needs on your own, here are some ideas to get help.

  • Nearby Family Members or Friends: If there are family members who live near the senior, ask for their help with these caregiving tasks. If you know the senior’s neighbors, religious group or local friends, see if they’re available to handle in-home needs.
  • Meal Delivery Services: Many local communities offer meal delivery for seniors who are homebound. Meals on Wheels is one of the most common organizations, but you may also find other charities that provide this service. Contact the local Aging and Disability Resources Center or Area Agency on Aging to find out about these services.
  • Adult Day Care: Adult day care provides a senior care service in a congregate setting, but it doesn’t require the senior to live in the community. This service is helpful in meeting some of the physical needs and a lot of the social needs of seniors when you can’t be with them.
  • In-Home Aides: In-home caregiving can also be a help. You can pay for someone to provide home care assistance and housekeeping services for your loved one. In many states, Medicaid funds pay for this service if the senior meets income guidelines. 
  • Local Transportation Services: Many communities have a senior transportation service that can help your loved one get to medical appointments or local senior resource centers.
  • Senior Centers: If your senior relative’s community has a senior center, reach out to see what kinds of services are available. Senior centers can be excellent places to get help with emotional and social needs, as well as general wellness checks.

How To Share Caregiving Responsibilities With Family Members

Even though a number of local services can help with your caregiving duties, it really does take a village. You’re going to need to rely on other family members to step in when you can’t. Create a caregiving team that you can pull from to ensure your senior’s needs are always met. This team can help spread out the responsibilities, so no one shoulders more than they have time to manage. Below are tips to coordinate this care in a positive way for all involved.

1. Define the Responsibilities

Before you sit down with family members, outline the caregiving responsibilities as you see them. Know what needs to happen and what helps your loved one to stay independent at home. Having this written out before you ask for help may make the conversation more productive.

2. Know Your Strengths and Limits

Next, consider your own strengths and the strengths of other family members. If you’re super organized with scheduling but bad with money, consider delegating the banking to someone else while you manage the daily scheduling. Remember, the goal is to provide ideal support to your parents or grandparents, so everyone should work with their strengths when possible.

3. Know Who Is on the Caregiving Team

A caregiving team should include relatives and neighbors who can and want to help with your loved one’s care. This list might include:

  • Other adult children or grandchildren
  • Other adult relatives
  • The senior’s younger or more able siblings
  • Neighbors
  • Members of the senior’s church or local social group

Brainstorm other ideas to create a well-rounded care team.

4. Create a Sign-Up Sheet

Consider using a sign-up sheet to gather the contact information and availability of all potential caregivers. Be sure to collect email addresses and phone numbers to give everyone the right contact information.

5. Provide Emotional Support

You might find that the family member who lives physically closest often shoulders the heaviest portion of the caregiving load. If you’re the long-distance caregiver, provide emotional support for the in-person caregiver. Be willing to listen when they just need to call and talk about their day of caregiving, and be open to their suggestions when they think something needs to change about the caregiving arrangements. Also, when you feel that in-person caregivers need a break, know where to look for respite services that can give the primary caregiver some time away.

6. Keep It Positive

Finally, keep the conversation positive. Know that everyone has the same goal — a safe, supportive environment for your loved one. Work out the details in a way that doesn’t create family drama.

Caregiving Team Sign-Up Sheet

Download the PDF below to fill it out with those who can help with your caregiving responsibilities. The “roster” below will help you stay organized and keep track of who is available to help your loved one with various tasks.

Caregiving Team Sign-Up Sheet

Staying Connected to Your Loved Ones From Afar

Staying Connected to Your Loved Ones From Afar

As a long-distance caregiver, one of your biggest goals needs to be staying connected with your senior so you can take care of needs as they arise. This challenge is where technology can have a huge impact. There are many tools and strategies you can use to stay connected with your loved one, even when you live far away. From video chatting to smart thermostats that let you check that the home is at a comfortable temperature, technology is making long-distance caregiving easier than ever before.

Apps and Tech To Help Seniors Stay Connected

An aging parent or grandparent may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of technology-driven communication, but many of the apps and tools that can help you stay connected are easy for all to manage. Even if using technology seems daunting for your family members, there are other options you can use to stay connected. Consider these ideas.

Tool or Method

Skill Level



Pros and Cons

Online Communities




Online communities like Facebook can help families stay connected regardless of their age differences. You may also use senior-specific communities to help your loved one stay connected with caregivers and people their own age. The main drawback of these communities is the presence of scams that take advantage of unsuspecting seniors.

Smart Home Devices

Medium to high


Depends on the device

Tools like the Echo or Facebook Portal are smart tools that can help keep people connected from a distance. They use voice activation, home video monitoring and image sharing. Smart thermostats and appliances can also help caregivers keep an eye on the activities of their seniors. The main difficulty here is that these smart devices can be hard for seniors to learn.

Low to Medium


$696 for the device and 12 months of service

The GrandPad is a tablet designed with seniors in mind. The icons are large, and the interface is simple, so your parents can easily find the link for video calls, photo sharing and messaging. It comes with an easy-to-use wireless charging station and a stylus. The main drawback is the high cost, but keep in mind that it covers a full year of service as well as the device.



$150 plus the monthly fee

The Jitterbug is a phone designed specifically for seniors. It doesn't have all of the apps and features of a regular smartphone, but it keeps communication close at hand. The drawback is the cost, but this is low compared to the peace of mind you’ll get knowing your parents can reach you whenever they want.




$0.58 to mail a letter in 2022

If digital communication isn’t the right fit for your parents, you can always send a hand-written letter. A letter is also something your parent may cherish because they can hold it and re-read it when they want. Of course, the risk here is that it could get lost in the mail, and it doesn't provide instant communication.

In-Person Visit



Travel costs

Nothing replaces an in-person visit. The only drawback is that your distance means you can’t do this as often as you might want.

Tips for Using Technology with Seniors

Many of today’s seniors still struggle a bit with technology. As you introduce a device for your senior to use to stay connected, make sure that you implement the technology in a way that’s not overwhelming. Here are some tips:

  • Choose apps with large icons and print.
  • Use a tablet or device with a large, bright screen.
  • Avoid apps or tools with too many options. Keep it simple.
  • Walk your loved one through how to use the app when you’re with them.
  • Make sure it’s plugged in or fully charged every time you visit.
  • Have a backup plan for all necessary tech in case they forget to charge it or lose power.
  • Consider voice-activated devices to limit user error.
  • Choose apps and devices you can monitor remotely.
  • Schedule times you will use technology to check in with your loved one.
  • Find someone local you can call for tech support if you can’t make the trip.

When You Visit – Making the Most Out of Your Time

While technology can help with your role as a long-distance caregiver, it’s no substitute for visiting in person. When you do make the trip to see your loved one, you’ll want to make the most out of your time together. Here are some things you need to make sure you do during your visits:

1. Check the Home for Safety and Improvement Needs

During your visit, thoroughly inspect the home. Look for maintenance or cleaning tasks that have been left undone. Decide if you need to take care of these during your visit or if you should find someone to help when you leave. If you notice a trend that certain tasks aren’t getting done, you might want to consider if it’s time to hire someone to help with those tasks.

2. Ensure All Medications Are Filled and Being Taken

Check on the status of your loved one’s medications. Check that they are taking them as prescribed. Decide if you need to order any refills or check with the doctor about making changes. Consider whether a medication dispensing system might help, and brainstorm ideas to ensure that medication is taken as it should be.

3. Assess the Senior’s Physical, Mental and Emotional Health

Check your loved one for signs of physical pain, illness or disability. Also take note of any signs of forgetfulness or depression. If you notice any issues, consider scheduling a medical appointment to have them assessed. If it seems like your loved one’s ability to handle personal care is diminishing, look for local help.

4. Connect Socially

Your visit is an important time to take care of the needs you can’t handle when you’re gone, but don’t forget to connect socially and emotionally. Long-distance caregiving takes some of the personal nature of caregiving away, and you can use your time together to reconnect. Find something your parent wants to do that they normally can’t, like going to a movie or shopping.  Make time during your visit to do something fun together.

5. Take Care of Banking and Financial Concerns

During your visit, make sure you have the help in place that will allow you to manage and oversee money if that’s one of your caregiving duties. Often, you will need to visit the bank to get yourself on a bank account or gain access to financial information. These tasks are best handled in person.

How To Get Started With Long-Distance Caregiving

As you can see, the role of a long-distance caregiver is vital, but getting started may feel overwhelming. Many people have been down this road before you, so here are some tips to get started.

Gather Information

The National Institute on Aging recommends getting some facts before you step into this role. First, ask your loved one and any other caregivers what you can do to be the most helpful. If you have friends who’ve done this before for their own parents or grandparents, ask them for advice.

Find Local Services

Next, you’re going to want to find out what options for care are available near your loved one. Compile a list of these local contacts so you can call them if you notice signs of problems. These tools can help:

Local Services 


Eldercare Locator

The U.S. Administration on Aging operates the Eldercare Locator. You can search online for caregiving services in your senior’s area, or you can call (800) 677-1116 to learn more about options.

Area Agencies on Aging

Each community in the United States has an Area Agency on Aging, so find the one that serves your parent’s community. The AAA coordinates with senior services in the area to help older adults remain in their homes with the right support.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers

Aging and Disability Resource Centers support local seniors and other people who have disabilities. Find the ADRC in your senior’s community to learn about potential services that they can access.

Assess Physical Needs and Abilities

One of the most important parts of caregiving for a senior is understanding their physical needs and what they can and cannot do. Talk to your parent’s primary care doctor to get a good grasp on their health needs and level of ability. You will need to know about:

  • Diagnoses
  • Medications
  • Physical limitations
  • Physical abilities
  • Specialists they see
  • Medical history

You will need written permission; otherwise, the doctor can’t talk to you under HIPAA Privacy Rules. Alternatively, you will need to visit with your loved one to get the information. Ask many questions to be certain you understand their health needs, and ask for permission to contact the doctor remotely if needed.

Assess Financial Needs

Finally, get a handle on your loved one’s financial situation. This can be touchy because some parents don’t like to talk about finances with their children, even adult children. However, do what you can to assess their financial strengths and weaknesses, and provide support when possible to ensure they’re managing their resources well.

Schedule Many Visits

As often as you can, visit in person. No amount of long-distance intervention can replace seeing your parent in person to learn how they’re really doing. Besides, nothing substitutes for a hug from mom or dad, and you can’t get that unless you visit in person.

Give Yourself Grace

Taking on the role of a caregiver is a big responsibility. You love your parent or grandparent, and you want to do the job well. Give yourself grace as you learn how to take on these duties and give your parent the best possible care.

State Resources for Long-Distance Caregivers

Each of the 50 states has caregiver support resources that you can tap into to help your loved one with their needs. If you need help understanding what services are available in your relative’s state, this is the best place to start looking for that information.


State Caregiver Resource Website



(808) 265-5716


(402) 471-9188

South Dakota

(833) 663-9673


(801) 538-3910