As your parent’s age, it’s natural to start worrying about them more. It’s almost a rite of passage, the moment when a child goes from being cared for to being a caregiver. That concern is intensified and complicated when you have moved to the United States and your parent is still in your native country. But just because there are borders separating you, doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain a close relationship with your parents and aid in their care. Here are five things you can do for aging parents to help bridge the distance.
1. Embrace technology or go old school.
Living far away doesn’t mean that you can’t share your life with your parent. If your mom or dad can figure out modern technology, or if you have a friend or family member who can help, make a daily or weekly video call date. Skype is great for international video calls, but there are a lot of apps that will provide a similar service. Include your parent in special occasions like your kids’ birthday parties or holidays by turning on the video feed.
If your parent can’t or won’t get on board with video calls or the internet, make phone calls and send letters with pictures. You might find that you discover new things about each other when you’re forced to go old school snail mail.
2. Volunteer to gather information/coordinate services.
If your parent has health issues, you can still take an active role in care despite the distance. Two responsibilities you can take over are gathering information (medical records, legal documents, phone numbers, contact information, etc.) and arranging services (researching options, calling and scheduling providers, managing payment, etc.). For more ideas on the kinds of information and services you might need to coordinate, the nonprofit organization Family Caregiver Alliance is a great resource.
3. Enlist an on-site surrogate.
Of course, sometimes you’ll need feet on the ground to help your parent. If you can’t be there, recruit a family member or friend to be your designated eyes and ears (better yet, gather a network of friends and family so that no one is overburdened and you’ll always have at least one person available to step in if necessary). Have someone check in periodically and report back about what services or help might be needed.
4. Make visiting a priority.
You can do so much from afar, but nothing can replace a face-to-face visit. Include both planned visits and a possible last-minute trip in your budget (roll that money over to the next year if you don’t have to use it). If you can, plan trips well in advance to save on travel costs.
5. Bring your parent to you.
There may come a time when it is no longer feasible for your parent to live by themselves or when you decide together that you would both be happier if they lived nearby. If you decide to bring your parent to the United States to live, you’ll need to obtain a green card. Start your research with SimpleCitizen’s excellent “Comprehensive Guide on How to Get a Green Card.”