7 Steps to Take When Aging Parents Need Help

aging parents need help

What to do when aging parents need help

If your aging parents need help to stay safe and healthy, you might be unsure about how to handle the situation.

Figuring out their needs, understanding the options, and making decisions can feel overwhelming.

Focusing on something concrete helps you feel more in control of the situation.

Use these 7 steps to turn the vague problem of “my aging parents need help” into a practical, realistic plan to help mom or dad be as healthy and happy as possible.



1. Assess your parent’s needs

Caring for a parent can feel overwhelming because you’re not sure exactly what needs to be done.

To solve that problem, take a step back to understand how much help your parent needs with everyday life.

Think about 8 key areas:

  • Family support
  • Home safety
  • Medical needs
  • Cognitive health
  • Mobility
  • Personal hygiene
  • Meal preparation
  • Social interaction

How much support are they already getting in each category and how much help do they realistically need to stay safe and healthy?

Write everything down in a caregiving notebook so you can keep track of their needs and figure out what services are needed.

For example, let’s say your dad is managing diabetes and heart disease, has no other family nearby, is fairly isolated in a rural area, and hates to cook for himself. Plus, you live across the country. So, he’ll need help with medication management, transportation, and meals.

You could hire a driver for doctor’s appointments and errands, set up grocery or meal deliveries, and hire an in-home caregiver to prepare meals and make sure he’s taking his medicine.


2. Think about your own needs and abilities

Everyone is in a different place in their lives.

Before you make the assumption that you can take care of all your parent’s needs by yourself, stop and think about your own situation and abilities.

  • Does your health allow you to physically care for someone?
  • Do you live close enough to visit as often as needed?
  • Would you want to live with them, either in their house or yours?
  • Do you have the kind of relationship that allows you to spend a lot of time together without creating a lot of negative feelings on either side?
  • Do you have the personality to provide the type of care they need?
  • Are you willing to learn how to provide that care?

We want our parents to be safe and healthy. And it’s not selfish or heartless if you’re not the best person to personally provide that care.

By looking out for their health and safety and arranging the help they’ll need, you’re still being a supportive and caring child.

It’s best to make an honest assessment early in the process so you don’t get yourself into a situation that’s not sustainable.

If you take on too much and burn out physically or emotionally, you won’t be able to help your parent or yourself.


3. Include your parent in the process

Nobody wants to lose control of their life, especially someone who’s already concerned about losing independence.

That’s why it’s so important to involve your parent as much as possible when you’re planning for their care. This helps them see you more as a partner rather than someone who’s swooping in to make changes.

They’re likely to be resistant in the beginning, so it will probably take multiple conversations. As long as they’re not in immediate danger, try not to force changes too quickly.

A helpful approach is to start with less intrusive approaches and increase the level of help as you go.

Unless it’s an emergency situation, get them used to accepting help by focusing on 1 or 2 critical needs. After that, slowly add on until they’re getting all the help they truly need.



4. Understand the financial situation

No matter what, caring for an older adult will cost money. It’s a good strategy to estimate future costs so you’ll be prepared.

Think about the medical care they’re likely to need, the cost of their potential living situation (like assisted living vs moving in with you), and everyday costs like food, caregiving supplies, home safety modifications, etc.

Once you have an idea of their financial position, you’ll know if they’ll be able to afford the care they need or if they’ll need financial help. Government programs, Medicaid, and other programs are available to help pay for long term care.

You may want to consult an elder law attorney or financial planner to help you with things like qualifying for Medicaid. Regardless, it’s best to plan ahead so they won’t get caught in a money crunch.


5. Take care of home safety basics

Safety hazards in the house add up over time, making it easier for older adults to trip, fall, or hurt themselves.

Preventing falls will go a long way to keeping your parent independent for as long as possible.

Simple fixes include:

  • Making sure all floors and walkways are clear of clutter, cords, and rugs
  • Adding grab bars in the bathroom and stair railings throughout
  • Updating lights so all rooms are bright and switches are easily accessible
  • Ensuring all appliances work well and are within easy reach
  • Minimizing the need to use step-stools or bend down low

For more suggestions, check out this handy room-by-room home safety modification guide.


6. Make sure communication is simple and accessible

Another thing that keeps your parent safe is the ability to easily call for help and keep in touch with family and friends.

On top of being a safety hazard, isolation and loneliness have a serious negative effect on overall health.

Make sure their phone is easy to use and easily accessible. For some, keeping a simple mobile phone with pre-programmed numbers in their pocket is reassuring and easier to get to.

Or, if your parent is open to the idea, consider a wearable medical alert device.


7. Explore available aging care options

Even after breaking down the steps, caring for your parent can be an overwhelming responsibility.

Fortunately, there are many aging care options and helpful resources you can rely on.

  • Geriatric care managers – they can act as consultants to guide you or they can manage all aspects of caring for your parent. Their experience could save you time, money, and headaches down the road.
  • In-home caregiving help – whether you hire privately or go through a home care agency, hired caregivers take care of seniors in their home.
  • Assisted living communities – if your parent isn’t able to live on their own or needs 24/7 care, assisted living and other senior housing options might be the right choice.
  • Geriatricians (geriatric doctors) – they specialize in caring for seniors and have more experience treating people with multiple chronic health conditions, dementia, and other conditions that primarily affect older adults
  • Area Agency on Aging – this is the county-level government office that serves local seniors. It’s a great starting point because they connect you with helpful local resources and government programs.


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Meals on Wheels Kitsap


A version of this article was originally published on Sixty and Me


This article wasn’t sponsored and doesn’t contain affiliate links. For more information, see How We Make Money.


  • Reply September 17, 2019

    Rick Lewis

    Knowledgeable and pragmatic solutions of multiple useful resources that have helped me to learn a better way to deal with our mother’s Alzheimers disease slowly taking her to a different place. I struggled and will alone doing my best to care for mom who has poured her heart into all 3 siblings and all I want to do is give her a clean, stable chance to continue her life with peace and happiness. These dramatic changes have only brought to light the anger , disappointment, tiresome arguments of severe dysfunction between myself the oldest and male….put against my 2 younger sisters who continually dump their responsibilities onto me just because I have moved in mom’s house to HELP share monumental heavy burdens . I finally got to accept they don’t have my own personal best interest in heart and have created extreme infighting, unbearable rage to the point of getting therapy for my own self care. Did I mention that I had a near fatal accident in march, came home in wheelchair 95% unable to take care of me or my own personal hygiene needs, meals, etc. YET, WHILE recovering from the tragedy I was left with Absolutely no help, no concern about me, and I still took care of my mother still do EVERYTHING for her. Nobody else even called to say anything they can do for me. I have depended solely on you and your information about this disease and I have the words from articles to draw upon for feeling compassion and not fall into the self pity sadness. I hang on by education through this website and I said too much just to tell you folks thx for helping to guide me. Rough isn’t that close to real situation I’m dealing with. But I’ve given my notice to everyone of my getting a new place to enjoy life again. I can barely wait to see how those 2 selfish sisters realize how awful they have been to good ole big brother. It will be a tsunami shockwave much deservedly induced by themselves.

    • Reply September 17, 2019


      We’re so glad that our articles are helpful, but we’re very sorry to hear about your own health issues and your siblings’ behavior 🙁

      It’s wonderful that you’re doing all that you can for your mother. It’s also great that you’re getting therapy to help cope with all the challenges and stress.

      In case it’s helpful, you may be interested in a caregiver support group. There are great in-person and online groups where you can chat with a community of caregivers in similar situations:
      — Support Groups for Caregivers on Facebook https://dailycaring.com/support-groups-for-caregivers-on-facebook/
      — 8 Benefits of Caregiver Support Groups https://dailycaring.com/8-benefits-of-caregiver-support-groups/

  • […] In the end, we will get to decide if we will let our momentary emotions determine how we treat the people who laid their lives to ascertain that we will live better ones. It may be challenging, but we should not be deceived by how circumstances want us to react to taking care of our elderly parents. […]

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  • Reply January 13, 2017


    Thaks for this article!

    • Reply January 13, 2017


      You’re welcome! I’m so glad it’s helpful.

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