Caring for Elderly Family Members


Caring for Elderly Family MembersTaking care of elderly parents? Here's how to keep them safe and stay sane. Having the opportunity to spend time with and give back to your elderly parents can be an unexpected gift. But as rewarding as it is, it can also be exhausting, frustrating, and dispiriting at times. Here are some ways to stay sane and enjoy time with your loved ones while you still have them.


No, really. Self-care is a buzzword these days, but the only reason everyone's talking about it is because nobody's doing it. Our culture is so conditioned to value productivity and reward people who ignore their own basic needs that it can feel almost excruciating to take time for yourself. But if you really care about being your best while you're helping others, you'll learn to attend to your own well being, too.

Living Conditions:

Just like an energy inspection can reveal ways to save money and make your home more efficient, reviewing your parents' residence can ease your mind and prevent problems in the long run. Look for ways to help them get around, avoid injury, and complete the tasks of daily living more easily. You might consider installing safety rails, security locks, a video monitoring system, or no-slip mats or floor coverings to help your parents stay safe. Consult with an expert to find out your options and make a plan within your budget.

Get Help:

Maybe you can't afford to hire a nurse or professional caregiver to come in and give you some relief. If not, look for other ways to get a much needed reprieve. Perhaps a neighbor can stop by and check in on an easier day so you can have a block of time alone. Or maybe it would help to have a friend come with you as you visit a parent with dementia. Find ways to get support, even if it's in small ways.

Acknowledge Grief:

Even if your parents are in fairly good health, there's no denying that time is short. If the alternative is true and one or both of your parents are chronically ill, the loss may feel imminent. Many people go through a type of "pre-grief" phase where they begin to process a loss before it actually happens. Don't be surprised if you need to cry, feel panicked or angry, or start experiencing some grief symptoms early on in the process.

Discuss Plans:

Talking about death is never easy, but not knowing your parents' wishes about medical care and funeral plans and not being able to ask them is even worse. There are many simple forms and online resources that can help you create an advanced directive, which outlines a person's wishes should they become unresponsive or unable to make decisions for themselves. Consult your family's spiritual advisor or a trusted medical professional if you need help and guidance leading your parents through the process.


If you're in a caregiving position, you may get stuck feeling like a fixer. It's important to take time out to appreciate the good moments and remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing. Whether you schedule a "duty free" lunch with your elderly parent or just make a point of sitting down for 10 minutes each time you drop by, find ways to connect and slow down. No matter how hard things might get, you will surely miss the opportunity when it's gone.

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