How to Offer Long-Distance Support for your Parent in Addiction Recovery

Happy Monday Split Rock Rehab Family!

Today’s article was written exclusively for us by our dear friend Hazel Bridges of

Caring for an adult parent is challenging, especially if you are trying to do so from far away.  If your parent struggles with an addiction you have added complications.  Fortunately there are ways you can help your parent stay on track, even when you are miles apart.

Substance abuse by seniors is a growing problem.  AgingCare explains that because we don’t usually think of senior citizens as addicts, doctors don’t screen older patients as carefully.  When seniors request pain medication it usually goes unquestioned.  Also, addiction is a genetic trait.  Therefore since fifteen percent of the overall population tends towards addiction, fifteen percent of seniors do as well.

Your aging parent and substance abuse.  Caring for your adult parent is challenging enough, but it’s even more taxing when there is an addiction problem. Your role changes from that of the child to being a caregiver. Some studies reflect that the transition of caring for an addicted parent “can be stressful, painful, and embarrassing.”  Sometimes adult children turn a blind eye and “let them have their little pleasure.”  Others may choose to turn away from their parents, which could make troubles worse.

Healing a rift. The distance between you and your parent may be emotional as well as physical.  You and your parent may not get along.  You may be one of the children who chose to turn away from your parent and now you want to make amends.  Perhaps substance abuse even caused the rift.  Set your parent and yourself up for success with making the relationship healthier.  MindBodyGreen has some advice for mending a broken parent-child relationship:

  • Remove resentment. This could be particularly challenging.  You may want to discuss things with a professional or a friend to get perspective.
  • Be grateful and loving with your parent to nourish the relationship.
  • Set boundaries. Establish some rules for how the relationship will function.
  • Be realistic. Recognize that healing will be a long-term process.
  • New connections. Come up with some new customs to engage you and your parent.  Think of activities and opportunities to bond.

Supporting your parent.  You made what may be an emotionally charged decision to help your parent recover from addiction.  Where do you begin?  Psychology Today has some great tips for helping with the recovery process:

Talk with your parent.  Discuss the addiction specifically, and make sure your parent knows you want to help.  Then discuss what your parent’s needs and expectations are.  You should specifically discuss your role and responsibilities.

Keep in touch.  Stay in contact with your parent on a regular basis.  Try setting a schedule for phone calls and visits.

Be informed.  It will help for you to be familiar with the recovery process.

Establish support.  You will not be able to assist with everything that comes up, especially from a distance.  Connect your parent with support groups and arrange for transportation if necessary.

Lifestyle choices.  Recovery should address your parent’s entire lifestyle and making good choices.  Take into account a healthy diet, good sleep habits, time with friends, doctor visits, and other activities.

Take care of yourself.  You are going through a stressful period.  You may need help such as in-home services or other support sources.

Use resources.  Remember you are not alone and reach out if you need assistance. Some studies show that 43.5 million Americans are caring for senior relatives or friends. As the professionals at PBS explain, “No one can master everything, not even the people who are experts in their field. The solution lies in putting together a team and using each team member’s strengths — including yours.”

Long-distance recovery for your parent.  Addiction is a growing problem in the senior population. If your parent is struggling there are ways you can help, even from a distance. Be supportive and use your resources.  With taking steps toward helping your parent you can assist with the recovery process, even from afar.

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