Question:   My sister’s health has really been declining. I want to help her, but she lives out of state. How can I help her from afar?

Being a caregiver long distance can be challenging, but there is much you can still do to support your sister. As with any caregiving situation, I suggest you first think through what your sister’s needs are, and then determine how to support each area.

The first area to assess are her basic daily needs. Physically, can she do her own “Activities of Daily Living” (ADL)? These include bathing herself, dressing herself, eating on her own, transferring from a chair to standing and going to the bathroom alone. These are key areas of functioning. The next level is the IADLs (Incidental Activities of Daily Living) and include managing bills, grocery shopping, preparing meals, managing medications, doing housework and using the telephone. By assessing these key areas of functioning it helps you understand how much help at home she requires.

It may mean she needs someone to care for her daily or it may mean she needs additional support to take care of outside needs such as meal delivery services, house cleaners and enrollment in automatic bill payments.

Next, assess her current support system. Does she already have help either paid or through relatives or friends? Does she have adequate social support?

You can then evaluate where the gaps are between her needs and her current supports. This will help you evaluate if her current living situation meets her needs. Think through what services could be put in place to fill those gaps and ensure your sister has what she needs to live safely and happily.

When looking for services in her area, you can reach out to the local Area Agency on Aging.  An Area Agency on Aging is designated by the state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons in the community. Look up her local Area Aging on Aging by inputting her zip code at this web address: Their services may include information and referral, case management, caregiver support and fall prevention programs.

If she has support in her area, be sure to coordinate with them and work together on a plan for care. If possible, include your sister in all decision-making processes. If she does not have local support, you may consider contracting with a private Aging Life Care Manager. This is a professional who you pay privately to manage her affairs and coordinate her care locally. You can look them up at

Sometimes, the best way to support your sister may be by providing social connection. Schedule a regular phone call with her so she can expect your care and concern. Help keep track of her doctor appointments and follow up care needed and remind her of these at each call.

Your sister is fortunate to have you and will feel your support even from a distance.

Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at


Friday, March 20 from 12:30 pm -2:30 pm Ventura Parkinson’s Disease Support Group at Ventura City Hall; 501 Poli Street, Community Meeting Room #202.  The Ventura Parkinson’s Disease Support Group welcomes the public along with those who find themselves navigating the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological conditions. Hand-out resources available at every meeting. For more information and detailed directions to our meetings, please call Patty at 805-766-6070.

Tuesday, April 7th from 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm: Spring Fling Dance at Camarillo Community Center, 1605 E. Burnley Street, Camarillo. Enjoy dancing, refreshments and live music by Seniors of Note. Call 805-4882-4881 for more information.

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