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Planning the Care of Your Aging Parents

If your parents are in their golden years, keep in mind that even gold can lose some of its glow with the expected effects of old age. Sooner or later, older loved ones will need assistance. Here are some things to think about and plan for, to help your loved ones.

Advance planning

  • Make sure legal documents have been drawn up. This includes an up-to-date will, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a healthcare proxy.

  • Research the housing options and services available in your parents' community.

  • Discuss with your loved ones how you can help with their future housing, financial, and medical care needs.

  • Ask them about growing old.

When it's time to act

One day, all the signs may point to the need for you to actively step in to assist your parents. These are some of the telltale signs:

  • Your loved ones start losing weight.

  • They stop washing their hair or clothing, or otherwise ignore personal hygiene.  

  • They show a change in behavior. 

  • They no longer do things that they used to enjoy, or they leave the house less often. 

  • They drink more alcohol.

  • They leave piles of unpaid bills on their desk, or they otherwise mishandle finances. 

  • They let food grow moldy in the refrigerator, or they leave their home untidy in other ways. 

  • They start walking unsteadily.

Important first steps

Immediately open a line of communication with your parents' healthcare providers so you can discuss your concerns. Even if you live far away, you can get contact information for your parents' healthcare providers and other local resources. Find local resources that can help your parents. These can include area agencies on aging, aging and disability resource centers, or aging information and referral services. 

Defining your limits

Many adult children find their first steps into caregiving responsibilities are like walking into quicksand. If you don't manage your time well or haven't planned in advance, you can become stuck in never-ending obligations. These can include things like daily chores and care, handling legal or financial issues, or lining up healthcare providers.

  • Decide what you can reasonably do to help. Stick with that plan. If you decide you'll visit your mother twice per week, help her manage her finances, and look into local resources, then that's what you should do. Get help for other needs as they arise.

  • Accept help early on. Help may come from relatives, friends, neighbors, churches and synagogues, senior centers, or home-care agencies.

  • Take care of yourself. Get exercise, get enough sleep, pay attention to your diet, and go to support-group meetings for caregivers.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Susan K. Dempsey-Walls RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.