By Annette Pinder

It can be difficult to be separated from loved ones during the holidays. However, living far from loved ones can be even more challenging when loved ones reach a stage where they become ill or frail, and appear to need more help. Adult children wonder, “How can I live my own life and take care of myself and my family, without feeling overwhelmed with guilt at not being there for my parents who have never needed me more?”

According to the National Institute of Aging, anyone, anywhere, can be a long-distance caregiver, no matter your gender, income, age, social status, or employment. If you are living an hour or more away from a person who needs your help, you’re probably a long-distance caregiver. Anyone who is caring for an aging friend, relative, or parent from afar can be considered a long-distance caregiver.

According to Emily Carton, who writes for Today’s Caregiver, it is important to determine whether what you are hearing from your aging parents is accurate. How do you assess your loved ones’ situation, especially if you aren’t seeing them regularly? Is their home being cared for properly? Are they able to manage daily tasks, such as housekeeping and meal preparation? Are they getting to doctor appointments and taking their medications? Can they continue to live safely and independently? Are they engaging with others socially? Are their legal affairs in order? Have you spoken with their physician?

If you cannot determine your parents’ situation clearly, perhaps it is time for a thorough evaluation by arranging for a visit, or enlisting the help of a geriatric social worker who can provide you with a recommendation for the level of care they require. It also may be time to consider having your parents relocate to a facility closer to your home where you can see one another, and feel assured that they are safe.

While you cannot force your parents to make a decision that seems drastic to them, if you find that they are no longer able to care for themselves, it is important for you to take action. It is never too soon to be aware of the resources available in both your own, and their own communities that can help so you are not doing this alone. Here in Western New York, there are many options available when seeking appropriate care for a loved one. Whether it is independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing care, help is available to find the perfect living situation.

This season, as you connect with your loved ones, listen carefully, and seek help, if needed, to assess their situation. Learn more about long-term care, advance-care planning, long-distance caregiving, and Alzheimer’s caregiving at If you need help identifying local and out of town resources, call the Elder Care Locator at 1-800-677-1116, or visit For information on caregiving resources, visit