How to not feel guilty living away from my elderly parents

Updated March 23, 2017

When you have elderly parents that live far away from you, it can be easy to feel guilty about all you can't do for them, no matter how much you actually do or don't do. However, it is important that you don't feel guilty, so parlay your worry into being proactive instead. After all, guilt doesn't accomplish much, but some preplanning can go a long way, so that you know if your parents need anything, you've already considered some options.

Call and check on your parents in regular intervals. This keeps you in touch with what's going on in their lives and should assuage some of the guilt over living far away. When you have regular conversations about their activities and daily dealings, it makes you feel as though you are more involved in their lives.

Visit as often as you can. You may fee less guilty about not living nearby if you make it a point to visit every few months or so. Even if it is just for a weekend, it gives you the opportunity to put your eyes on your parents and see for yourself how they are really doing. Moreover, regular visits mean time to do things around the house for them or take them to medical appointments as needed. It may not be your most fanciful weekend getaway, but it alleviates your guilt for the lack of day-to-day care.

Cultivate an emergency plan. One of the reasons for the guilt is that you worry if something goes wrong, you aren't there. One way around this is to plan how you will be there if you need to be. Put aside an emergency fund that you can use to get your parents quickly in the event of an emergency. Plan every facet of the process, from the method of travel to how you will to your parents from, say, an airport to how long it will take you. If you have this planned ahead of time, you may feel less guilt, since you know you can be there quickly if you need to be.

Rely on community members and family friends. Perhaps you can't be there all the time, but you may feel less guilty if you form relationships with people in your parents' community that can serve as your eyes and ears. This is specifically important if your parents tend to be stubborn and don't tell you when things are wrong. Form a friendship with the next-door neighbour or your parents' religious leader; these are people who may encounter your folks at regular intervals and can tell you if something is amiss.

Join a support group for caregivers. This is particularly a good idea if you feel guilty because your parents - one or both - are dealing with some kind of disease that you feel you should be around to assist with. Just because you are far away doesn't mean you aren't still dealing with the emotional ramifications of the disease process. Join a support group and solicit advice from members on how you can assist your parents, even from afar.

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About the Author

Lynda Moultry Belcher is a writer, editor and public relations professional. She worked for a daily newspaper for 10 years and has been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. She has contributed to Divorce360 and Revolution Health Group, among other publications. She is also the author of "101 Plus-Size Women's Clothing Tips" and writes "Style At Any Size," a bi-weekly newspaper column.