If you're caring for an elderly parent or loved one who lives far away, you're not alone. According to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 7 million adults are long-distance caregivers. And perhaps at no time is the challenge of long-distance caregiving greater than when you can't be there for the holidays.

But according to Caring from a Distance (CFAD), an independent, nonprofit organization created by men and women who personally struggled with the anguish, stress, and frustration of long-distance care, the following five tips can help to make the season more joyful, even if you are miles away.

  1. Send a care package to be opened at the holiday table. Include the following: a one-page story detailing your specific memories of a long-ago family vacation; a recent picture drawn by the youngest member of your own brood; a sample of whatever it is you do when you're working (if not working, then a sample of whatever it is you do when you're not working); a photo of a family pet; a request to a sibling to return a toy/book/item of clothing borrowed and never returned; a written apology for a similar infraction you may have inflicted on your own; a big thank you to the parents who loved you enough to send you forth into the big wide world.

  2. Pre-schedule a time to call and speak with those gathered for the event. Make sure it does not come when everyone is eating or walking in the door.

  3. Set a specific date for your next visit, and make appropriate reservations.

  4. Arrange a conference call with family members and caregivers for after the holidays so you can get a status report and discuss hot button issues. Listen carefully to determine how you can assist from afar. Select an area to research so you can help those on the scene to identify options and investigate community resources that may not be apparent to them. Set a deadline for when you will report results.

  5. Finally, take a deep breath, and stash you own feelings of guilt, worry, and frustration. By following the first four steps, you've opened doors of communication and taken real measures to prepare for future uncertainties.