3 Steps to Care for Aging Parents at Home

If you’ve been caught off-guard by news about a parent’s health and their ability to care for themselves – you are not alone. With more people living longer the Centers for Disease Control reminds us it’s likely that many of us will be faced with the prospect of caring for aging parents.

ways-to-care-for-the-elderly-in-copyFortunately, you don’t have to automatically turn to nursing homes or caregivers when a parent needs help. More Seniors are living in their homes, even when they require care. AARP statistics show that most Seniors with caregivers live in their homes alone (45 percent), or their caregivers live in their homes with them (35 percent).

This article helps loved ones faced with caring for an aging parent at home and offers advice about how they can provide their loved one with the best possible care without having to rely on a care facility. Many common resources available to non-professional caregivers who simply want to be there to help loved ones during later years will be discussed.

Here is a three-step process, with checklists and resources that will help you care for your Senior parent so they can live safely and independently.

Step 1: Is it possible to care for a Senior at home?

To assess this properly, it is really a two-part process: 1) your loved one’s ability to live independently, and 2) whether the home is safe and secure. To begin, determine:

  • Is my aging parent healthy enough to live on their own?

Observe your aging parent or loved one and ask questions to decide whether they are sound enough to live on their own.  There are signs that indicate if caring for an aged parent at home should be reconsidered in favor of a care facility. Look for:

  • Frequent accidents resulting in cuts, bruises and broken bone
  • A worsening, chronic health condition or illness that’s slow to heal
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deteriorating physical appearance, looking unkempt or wearing unwashed clothes
  • Increasing difficulty in dressing, bathing or brushing teeth independently
  • Unpaid bills or unopened mail piling up
  • Stale, spoiled and old food in the refrigerator
  • Damage that suggests that there’s been a fire in the kitchen
  • Housekeeping is becoming lax
  • Pets and plants that are not being cared for
  • Frequent confusion about common names and places

Consulting with your parent’s medical professional – with your loved one’s permission, of course – will also provide insight into whether they can live independently in their home or if they should receive full-time care.

  • Is the home safe enough to care for aging parents?

Even if you’re not a contractor or handyman, there are things you can do around a home to make it more Senior-friendly, including:

  • Improve lighting by adding nightlights
  • Clear entryways of things that could cause tripping, such as shoes
  • Get area rugs with rubberized bottoms to reduce falling risks
  • Declutter hallways

For a complete checklist to help make a home safer for a Senior, read Potential Home Hazards.

For more involved tasks, such as securing grab bars near tubs and toilet or adding a timer to automatically turn off stove burners, you may want to hire a handyman or contractor. They can also assess a home’s basic livability for an independent Senior.

If there are stairs in the home, a contractor should inspect the stairs to ensure they are level, in good condition and the railing is sturdy. It is common for stairs to be a major tripping hazard if they are in poor condition.

If mobility is a concern, the contractor may suggest installing a home elevator. Many of today’s models are lighter, cost-efficient, don’t require extensive remodeling, possess advanced safety features and effectively minimizes a major falling risk.

Step 2: Get organized                                                                        

When you take on the responsibility of caring for a Senior loved one, it means taking partial or total control of their daily needs including their doctor’s appointments and medication schedule.

One high-tech way to do this is to consider using an app such as CareZone, which can help you manage the calendar of a loved one. It also can keep track of medications, dosages, the results of a medical appointment, reminders about a drug reaction or other pertinent information. This data can also be shared with others, such as siblings.

Not all tools need to be high-tech. A pill organizer can be purchased in any pharmacy and it is helpful way to separate out medications for each day, or even during different times of each day, to help ensure a dose will not be missed.

Step 3: Establish a plan and follow it

One of the keys to doing anything effectively is establishing a plan of action and sticking to it. It’s important to stick with a plan because a deviation can cause lost time, or worse—a missed appointment or medication dose—which can impact your loved one’s health.

It may be convenient to set up a weekly calendar in a visible place, like the refrigerator. Include any appointments and social events, such as activities at a local senior center, meals with family or friends, so that your parent can also see the schedule and look forward to the fun.

One additional note: it can be stressful caring for your aging parent and you may find you need a break from time to time. Make certain you reach out to friends and family to assist you when you need it.

With support and a plan, you may find that the time you spend caring for aging parents brings many rewards. These years can be especially meaningful for both of you, as the care and comfort you provide helps deepen your familial bond.

These are just a few of the steps you can make to safely age in place. If you would like to see additional tips about how you can make your home more “senior friendly,” be sure to read our new free guide, Safe Home. Happy Home. Get your free copy now!