Long-Distance Caregiving – Preparing for a Visit with Your Older Relative


December 1, 2023

long distance caregiving preparing for a visit

The considerations to keep in mind may vary depending on your family member’s living situation. In this article, we will explore two scenarios: when the family member is living independently in a home, apartment, or retirement community, and when the family member resides in an assisted living or skilled care facility.

For Independent Living:

When your family member lives independently, a visit can serve as an opportunity to evaluate how well they are managing their current living arrangements. One of your primary concerns might revolve around the safety of their independent living setup. Here are some key safety factors to assess:

  • Interior Safety: Examine the house or apartment to ensure it’s physically safe for your family member. Check for needed repairs in heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems. Assess the adequacy of lighting, especially for older eyes, and consider installing night lights in key areas. Verify that stairs are well-marked and equipped with sturdy handrails. Look out for slip hazards like throw rugs and confirm that the tub or shower is accessible with grab bars. Ensure the telephone has large numbers for easy reading without glasses or contact lenses. Eliminate clutter that could pose fire hazards or lead to injuries and confirm the presence of working smoke alarms.

  • Medication Management: Verify the current status of medications, ensuring they are properly labeled and stored. Older family members may sometimes hold onto unused medications, thinking they might need them later.

  • Exterior Safety: Evaluate the safety and accessibility of the building’s exterior. Check the condition of steps, handrails, and consider whether a ramp would offer better access. Assess outdoor lighting around entrances and on the property. Ensure the yard is adequately maintained, free of trash and clutter.

  • Driving Assessment: If your family member still drives, accompany them on errands, visits with friends, or shopping trips. Evaluate the condition of their vehicle and pay attention to their driving skills, particularly in tasks like reversing and merging. Assess their alertness and ability to respond to unexpected situations on the road.

Additional Considerations:

  • Plan enjoyable activities that your relative will appreciate, especially if you need to address sensitive or stressful issues during your visit.

  • Spend as much time as possible at your relative’s residence, even if you are staying at a hotel or with another family member, to get a comprehensive sense of their situation.

  • If important discussions are on the agenda, find a quiet, distraction-free space for them. It’s helpful to inform your relative in advance of the topics you’d like to cover during your visit.

  • If you anticipate searching for community resources and services, plan ahead and contact local organizations such as the Area Agency on Aging for assistance. Additionally, meet a few friends and neighbors and request permission to contact them in case of any concerns after you return home.

For Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facilities:

When your family member is in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, there are several aspects to consider during your visit:

  • Facility Conditions: Assess the cleanliness and maintenance of the facility. Evaluate the comfort and lighting in common areas.

  • Resident Engagement: Observe whether residents are encouraged to socialize, participate in games, and engage in activities.

  • Dining Experience: Share a meal with your family member at the facility. Evaluate the quality and nutritional value of the food and whether dietary restrictions are accommodated.

  • Staffing and Care: Consider the staff-to-resident ratio and observe how staff members interact with residents. Look for thoughtfulness, politeness, and caring attitudes.

  • Visit at Different Times: Visit at various times throughout the day to gain insight into daily interactions and available activities.

  • Resident Well-being: Check if residents are clean, appropriately groomed, and dressed according to the season.

  • Consistency of Care: If possible, meet with the care team that interacts most frequently with your family member. Assess the consistency of staff presence throughout the week.

  • Feedback from Your Family Member: Ask your family member about their likes and dislikes regarding the facility.

  • Addressing Concerns: If you encounter anything concerning during your visit, communicate the issues to the facility’s management.


Despite potential challenges, your visit can also be a much-needed break for both you and your older family member. Remember to consider things from their perspective, have open conversations, and plan for enjoyable moments during your stay.

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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