Making sure your parents are safe is more difficult from out of town but it can be done.

Your older parents may say they are “fine” but you suspect that is not true. If you think things are not as rosy as they claim but you live a drive or plane ride away, there are things you can do.

For living conditions: Enlist spies. They can be a neighbor, relative or friend that lives nearby and you trust to tell them the truth. If someone cleans their home, they can be an excellent resource.

For health related concerns: Ask your parent if they will give permission to speak with their health care professional. Without that permission, you cannot speak with anyone providing your parent with health care because of health care privacy laws. If they say no, you can still call their health care provider and leave a message that you are concerned about something. That doctor or nurse cannot return your call but they will get the message.

For financial concerns: Ask to be included in having access to their bank account or stocks/retirement as well as utilities. This may be as simple as getting an on-line password or putting yourself on the account as well. If they do not give you permission, again you can speak to a banker, stockbroker, etc. They may not be able to even confirm that your parent is a client but they will hear you. If things are really bad, you may want to put them under guardianship which will require retaining a lawyer.

For driving related concerns: A driving evaluation is in order. This person will make suggestions as to whether driving is still an option and may make recommendations to keep you on the road, such as limiting driving to day time or local roads. Check with your parent’s health care provider, AAA or AARP. Insurance may pay for a specialized occupational therapist to do an evaluation if there is a health related concern. At the very least, have them drive you or someone who lives near them you can trust so you can evaluate their driving skills.

The best advice: Go there. See for yourself what is going on. Ask to go meet with their doctor, banker, etc. while you are there. Even if you cannot meet with professionals while you are there, you will get a good idea of the situation.

These suggestions are not subversive, but potentially lifesaving. You don’t want to get the call that your parent is in the ER because they did not take medicine properly, had a serious car accident or was swindled or mismanaged their money and is now penniless. Be proactive before disaster strikes.