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10 Ways to Care for Your Aging Parents

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Aging is a reality that can be difficult to accept, especially concerning our parents—the role shift when children begin to look after their parents can be harsh for some families. We are used to our parents helping us manage challenges as we navigate the world. Now, they are the ones who need our help. This can be difficult for both parties to accept.

Caring for an older parent or parents often comes from a place of love and duty. We want to ensure they are safe, healthy, comfortable and able to enjoy their lives as much as possible. But this often requires much more direct, hands-on assistance than we are used to providing. In addition, our parents are still people. They want to maintain their independence and freedom, and it can be an adjustment on their part to turn over the reins to their children, even just a little bit.

If you are a new caregiver, you will face some necessary life decisions. This may leave you feeling overwhelmed, scared or frustrated. The thing to remember is that these feelings are expected. Resources are available to help caregivers learn to navigate caring for an aging parent. But if you are at the beginning stages, it may be easier to take a big-picture approach to what you need to focus on.

What are the most important things to do before your parents can no longer safely care for themselves? What type of caregiving roles will you need to learn if you plan on doing all of the caregiving yourself or with the support of an external resource or aid?

Below is a checklist to help you work through some of the most important caregiving concerns to evaluate how to best care for your older parents.

Determining the type of care needed

Does your parent have prescription medication or need help with pain management? Plan to meet with a doctor who can assess your parent. Working with a healthcare professional, create a medical care plan to provide medical assistance at home.

Preparing a care plan

Using the doctor’s appointment information, prepare a care plan that addresses your parent’s strengths and weaknesses. This is a necessary step when you are beginning your caregiving journey. The care plan will help you determine how many hours of care a day your loved one will require and how many you have available to devote to them. It will allow you to resolve challenging questions, such as needing a temporary caregiving service to help share the burden. You can also share the care plan with siblings or other loved ones who are invested in the process.

Monitoring medication

Monitor your parent’s medication according to their medical care plan, which should specify your duties and the times of day you should provide medical assistance to them. If they live alone, create a document with contacts in case of emergencies. This record should also list their medications, advance directives and additional medical information. Put the document in a clear plastic bag and tape it to their refrigerator or inside the front door for easy access.

Preparing to assist with basic needs

You may be required to assist your loved one with their basic needs, including bathing, grooming and bathroom use. This may involve restructuring their home or living space with specific tools for mobility, bath safety and home care bedroom products. These products can be found in Ochsner's Home Medical Equipment & Total Health Solutions store.

Preparing meals

Food preparation becomes increasingly difficult as we age. You can help your parent by grocery shopping, preparing their meals, and monitoring their nutrition.

Here is a list of resources related to meals, transportation, medication, mental health and isolation and Medicare for those in the Gulf South region from the experts at Ochsner.


Keeping a clean and organized home takes longer as we age and become less active. You can assist a loved one by doing dishes, vacuuming or removing the garbage. Also, guarantee walkways and common areas are free of clutter or objects that could cause them to slip or fall.

Making your parent comfortable 

Your parent may have difficulty getting to and from their bed to their chair. Be prepared to help them move and make them comfortable.

Transporting Your Parent

Transporting your loved one to doctor's appointments and other activities will become a standard caregiving duty.

Friendship and companionship

During all these new duties, it's easy to forget one of the most important parts of caregiving: companionship. Focus on how rewarding it is to care for your parent and know how thankful they are to have you, too.

Monitoring performance

Look at your loved one's care plans, monitor their care performance and speak with a medical professional if any adjustments need to be made. Caregiving is the greatest gesture of love that you can make. While it presents many challenges, watching your parents enjoy their later years and getting quality time with them during this period should be a great joy.

Your healthcare team is your partner in caregiving. Make sure to include them in your decision-making or when you have questions.

Finally, being a caregiver is rewarding but can also be physically and emotionally demanding. It's just as essential for caregivers to maintain self-care, from taking breaks and asking for help when needed to finding moments for hobbies and stress-relieving activities to prioritize your well-being. Even just a few minutes of self-care can make a difference in maintaining stability and providing the best possible care for your loved ones.

Concerned your loved one may have a memory disorder? Learn more about brain health and cognitive disorder services at Ochsner Health.


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