Caring for an aging family member is difficult, even when you live in the same house. It’s even harder when life won’t allow the bridge of distance to be narrowed. In these circumstances, you must learn to rely on both technology and other individuals to help provide for the needs of your loved one. Here are a few ways to get acquainted with their community and create the support network you both need.

Visit when you can

It’s tough getting away from your routine. Children, jobs and other responsibilities make it even harder to step outside of your own life. But when you are responsible for someone else’s health and well-being, you must do exactly that. Plan to visit your loved one at least once a month in the early days of your new responsibility. This will give you the chance to meet their immediate neighbors and introduce them to community amenities that can make life easier on everyone concerned. If possible, host a dinner with their closest neighbors and exchange contact information.

Contact their local senior center

Most cities have a designated place where those in the 65-and-up crowd can go to mix and mingle. Most local senior centers offer everything from crafting classes to social events where your loved one can make new friends. Perform an online search to find the location nearest to your loved one’s home. Many senior centers also offer volunteer opportunities, tax preparation assistance and fitness programs.

Get them involved in group activities

When you’re able to visit, consider taking your senior loved one on a field trip to explore the social and recreational opportunities available in their area. By encouraging your loved one to get involved in an activity that stimulates their physical and mental health, you also put them in a better position to avoid cognitive decline. And, as explains, knowing your loved one is engaged in safe activities will give you the time to focus on your own needs. Two of the best group settings for seniors are age-appropriate fitness classes and church, the latter of which may also have volunteer driving programs for senior congregation members.

Enlist help for health needs

Your newfound contacts can help you decide who could take your loved one to the doctor, if needed, or they can refer you to other contacts for this. They can also help your loved one make healthcare decisions if you’re unable to do so from afar. It’s important to keep an eye on updates to your loved one’s coverage, since these can occur annually. You or a contact can help your loved one decide if it’s time to make adjustments to their plan, which may include the need for additional coverage. If they need vision, dental, or prescription coverage, they can get that coverage through Medicare Advantage plans.

Having a network of friends and family to provide hands-on care is important, especially if transportation is a concern or if your loved one has medical issues that affect their physical or mental well-being. Until you can establish their network, consider hiring a licensed, bonded caregiver who can perform daily, weekly, or monthly home visits to help handle medical care, bathing or household chores.

Taking care of a sick or senior loved one is a lot like raising a child. It requires planning, persistence, and, as is the case when your loved one lives far away, a village.