Recently, a friend asked me to write an article about how to best care for aging parents.
I really didn’t have much personal experience in this area, but I knew many friends who did!
I had to call on some of these “experts” in the subject to assist me. They were gracious enough to do so. Today is Part One in a Two-Part Series. The second post will be shared tomorrow.
My first expert is Don Woodruff. He and his wife Debbie have cared for their aging parents and have some wonderful insights to share today. I believe you will gain great wisdom from what you read today.
Recently, a friend asked me to write an article about how to best care for aging parents. Click To Tweet
30 Timely Tips to Better Care for Your Aging Parents (Part One)
1. KNOW THAT CARING FOR AGING PARENTS IS EXPENSIVE.
They have been independent and quite often want to maintain their independence. Of course, most of the time their houses are too big for them to keep up, so they usually move to a smaller apartment.
The real expense comes when they have to move to an assisted living facility.
These can cost as much as $4000 per month, but they ensure they take their medicines, maintain cleanliness, eat three meals a day, and have medical help on site. The costs can increase significantly as their needs increase.
When they are living alone, it is good to get them an alert system that is monitored by a paid service like and also gives them the ability to press a button when they fall or have other issues. It costs, but this is an important investment for their safety. There are some that can detect a fall without them even having to press a button.
Additionally, you may want to look into in-home health care services like in care Sydney to assist your family with caring for aging parents. To have someone else coming in to care for your loved ones will give you much needed support.
They have been independent and quite often want to maintain their independence. Of course, most of the time their houses are too big for them to keep up, so they usually move to a smaller apartment. Click To Tweet
2. KNOW THAT CARING FOR AGING PARENTS REQUIRES TIME.
They need to be checked on often to ensure they are taking their meds, throwing out expired food containers, not leaving food out for hours with plans to eat it later, maintaining personal hygiene, etc.
Additionally, they can also create hazardous situations by moving furniture, overloading electrical sockets, or not keeping a walker handy for moving around in their apartment.
They aren’t that expensive so get them a walker with wheels that swivel, a seat, brakes, and a basket. It is important to check on them as often as possible.
Aging parents may also have other needs such as providing them with a very simple and generic TV controller that only has buttons for On/Off/Volume/Channel.
3. IN CARING FOR AGING PARENTS, YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN A SENSE OF HUMOR (a necessity).
It can be very frustrating and sad to see them decline in physical abilities, ability to reason, and lack of personal hygiene.
One of the best ways to combat your disappointments is to learn to enjoy the funny things that happen, and there will be many opportunities to do this.
You have to remember that they really want to do the right things, but have just lost their ability to do them.
It can be very frustrating and sad to see them decline in physical abilities, ability to reason and lack of personal hygiene. Click To Tweet
4. WHEN CARING FOR AGING PARENTS, YOU MUST ENSURE THEY TAKE THEIR MEDICINES.
When they are still living alone, you have to be sure they are taking their medicines.
Day of the week pill holders can help some, but as they get confused, they will still skip or double up on their meds.
Even though you fill the day compartments with the ones they are to take that day, you may find pills on the floor or multiple pills in the same day compartment and none in the next one.
Rather than hitting the panic button and fussing, just correct the ones that are wrong and gently remind them of their mistakes (laughing as you tell them helps some).
When they are still living alone, you have to be sure they are taking their medicines. Click To Tweet
5. WHEN CARING FOR AGING PARENTS, BE SURE THEY EAT REGULARLY.
When they are in assisted living, this isn’t a problem, but when they are living alone it is something to be concerned about.
It can help if you can create meals that can be microwaved, label them by day and stack them in the fridge.
If possible, keep a calendar in the kitchen area with a marker handy to X out each day. But don’t get your hopes up, they can still get confused regarding the days of the week. You can also plan an activity calendar to smoothen their routine.
If possible, keep a calendar in the kitchen area with a marker handy to X out each day. But don't get your hopes up, they can still get confused regarding the days of the week. Click To Tweet
6. BE SURE THEY MAINTAIN CLEANLINESS (personal hygiene & living area).
They will often wear the same clothes for many days if you do not get them to change.
They will also put clothes with urine or worse in the clothes hamper and hide them by covering them up with other clothes.
You will need to check at least once a week (twice is better) and take their clothes home to wash them. Most of them will not dust their furniture, vacuüm their floors, wash their dishes, clean up spilled food, etc.
You will need to check at least once a week (twice is better) and take their clothes home to wash them. Most of them will not dust their furniture, vacuüm their floors, wash their dishes, clean up spilled food, etc. Click To Tweet
7. YOU’LL NEED TO TAKE THEM TO THEIR DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS.
You have to keep a list of their doctors and their appointments. You will need to go with them to their appointments because they will get confused and will not be able to tell you if there are changes to their medicines.
Also, you will also have to check them in at the doctor’s office, answer questions from the doctor or nurse, ensure they are dressed in clean clothes, and answer any questions they have about the visit.
And, you will also have to explain any changes in their medicines and refill their pill containers.
You have to keep a list of their doctors and their appointments. You will need to go with them to their appointments because they will get confused and will not be able to tell you if there are changes to their medicines. Click To Tweet
8. BE PREPARED TO CALL AN AMBULANCE AS NEEDED (and to spend time there).
Whenever they have issues (high fever, throwing up, falls, etc.), due to their frailty it is often better to ask for an ambulance than to try to transport them yourself.
Indeed, you may want to consider purchasing a medical alert system for just such an occasion. This will give you some additional help and peace of mind.
You also need to go with them to the ER so you can take care of their insurance information and answer questions from the medical staff.
Be prepared to spend a long time there while the medical staff completes their procedures and moves them to a room.
Be prepared to spend a long time there while the medical staff completes their procedures and moves them to a room. Click To Tweet
9. KEEP INSURANCE INFORMATION HANDY.
This is extremely important because you never know when you will receive a call that something has happened, or you stop by to check on them and find them in distress of some kind.
10. BE PREPARED FOR MANY HOSPITAL VISITS.
When they are hospitalized, it is important to visit them often and talk to the nurses.
Stop by the nurses’ station on the way to your visit and ask questions regarding their treatment.
Developing a good rapport with the nursing staff is essential – when you do, they will call you if there are concerns or questions, rather than relying on the patient.
If they have swallowing issues, it is important to ensure the dietician knows it and prepares food that is appropriate.
When you can, feed them yourself in order to see how well they can process the food.
When they are hospitalized, it is important to visit them often and talk to the nurses. Click To Tweet
11. LEARN TO BE TOLERANT.
We all want things our way and we don’t want to see them doing things their own way.
You can tell them what to do all you want to, but they are still going to do what they want to do.
Accept this as a fact of life and don’t take it personally. They are not being rebellious or defiant, they are just trying to do the best they can with their limited abilities.
Accept this as a fact of life and don't take it personally. They are not being rebellious or defiant, they are just trying to do the best they can with their limited abilities. Click To Tweet
12. DEVELOP AND INCREASE IN PATIENCE.
Due to their limitations, they are not going to be as responsive as you would like them to be.
They will move slower, talk slower, and respond slower. Make plans with consideration of their limitations. If it is a doctor’s appointment, add the necessary time to compensate for their slowness.
There are times when they repeatedly ask you to repeat what you said – just repeat it knowing that it’s coming. At other times, they will repeat the same thing to you multiple times.
Don’t frustrate yourself and them by reminding them that they have already told you that earlier. Practice responding as if it is the first time you have heard it. Sometimes they will repeat the same thing many times on one visit and other times they will tell the same story each time you visit.
This is where a sense of humor helps – guess at how long it will be before they tell you the same thing again.
13. REMEMBER TO ENCOURAGE THEM AND LIFT THEIR SPIRITS.
Their days can become very frustrating and gloomy as they realize how much they are limited in their physical and reasoning abilities.
Plan ahead to encourage them. See how well they are doing and think of anecdotes you can share with them to make them smile.
Recalling funny things that have happened in the past can help them smile, laugh and even talk about them. If they tell you something funny you have heard many times before, laugh as if it is new to you.
Plan ahead to encourage them on how well they are doing and think of anecdotes you can share with them to make them smile. Click To Tweet
14. ALLOW THEM TO RETAIN THEIR DIGNITY.
Remember they are still God’s people. They may need some advice or instructions, but they don’t need lecturing, scolding, or being talked to in a belittling way.
When possible, do the things that need to be done (picking up, cleaning up, etc.) in as subtle of away as you can.
Don’t scold them like a little child whenever they have messy eating habits (just be glad they are eating). Things need to be done, but they need to feel your visit is to see them above everything else.
Remember they are still God's people. They may need some advice or instructions, but they don't need lecturing, scolding, or being talked to in a belittling way. Click To Tweet
15. LEARN TO REALIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT AND WHAT IS NOT.
Checking on their health and the conditions of their living area is important, but so is spending time with them.
Repeating stories, getting mad, or frustrated with you, sounding angry at you, spilling food is not as important. Don’t say, “You’ve already told me that.” Never forget that they are your parents. You want to respect them.
Plan on making every visit enjoyable for them whether it is for you or not.
You may find yourself letting out a big sigh of relief when you are leaving, but you should be able to say to yourself, “She or he enjoyed my visit.”
Checking on their health and the conditions of their living area is important, but so is spending time with them. Click To Tweet
16. DON’T GET OFFENDED BY WHAT THEY SAY, JUST LET IT GO.
There are going to be times when they say something that offends and even ‘ticks’ you off.
You know it’s going to happen and you know that if they were in good physical and mental health, they wouldn’t say the same things.
They are in a stage of life where they have lost their filters and, therefore, must be treated differently.
In many cases, they will speak and act like a child, so it is up to you to be an adult. You still have the ability to overlook the things they say and do, so overlook them. Getting mad is going to ruin the visit and upset you as well.
17. HAVE SOMEONE THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH.
You need to have a close friend or family member with whom you can share your frustrations.
Truly, you’ll find being a caretaker is a little easier whenever you can tell someone, “You’re not going to believe what happened today.” “It was funny when I visited her and _____ (fill in the blank).”
Additionally, it is also important to have someone to talk to about your concerns and frustrations. Ideally, it would be great to have someone to assist in the caretaking requirements.
Additionally, it is also important to have someone to talk to about your concerns and frustrations. Ideally, it would be great to have someone to assist in the caretaking requirements. Click To Tweet
18. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
Caregiving can take its toll on the caregiver. You have to realize that even though you want to, you cannot do everything when it needs to be done.
There are emergency situations that require immediate action, but you HAVE to make sure you have some ‘relax’ time for yourself.
You need strength to keep on keeping on. Making decisions and attending to expected and unexpected needs can drain you. They can make you feel that you are neglecting other things related to the rest of your family.
You can only do so much, so don’t let guilt take control of you. Don’t forget to talk to God – Pray, Pray, Pray.
You can only do so much, so don't let guilt take control of you. Don't forget to talk to God - Pray, Pray, Pray. Click To Tweet
So, what about you?
Are you dealing with an aging parent right now?
What tips and suggestions do you have?
I always enjoy hearing from you!
That’s it for Part One of this series.
Be sure to check out Part Two by clicking HERE.
Thanks, Don, for so many practical and helpful ideas! We really appreciate you sharing with us today! I believe many people will benefit from your experiences and your wisdom. We appreciate you!
Don Woodruff’s Bio:
Servant of the Lord, blogger, writer, Bible teacher. Married to Debbie for 45 years. We enjoy sports of all kinds and love to play golf. We have two children and five grandchildren who keep us entertained and busy.
My blog is Bread For Believers (utvolwoody.wordpress.com) and has many devotionals (adding to them daily as God gives me what He wants to communicate).
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One thing I have learned is that you can call 911 for “Non-Emergency Lift Assistance” if they have fallen and you cannot lift them. My dad is a big guy and I cannot help him up by myself. I can usually get my mother up. Our local EMTs told me about this and we have used is a couple of times.
Thanks for this tip!
Such a good thing to know!
Hope you and your dad have a great weekend,
Caring for a parent is so hard! It’s a fine line between caregiver and child and it makes enjoying the last of their life difficult when you are trying to keep up with daily needs. I caved and hired an in home caregiver to help with some of the regular needs my mom had. The company I use let’s you set the schedule on when to use them so it’s really nice!
I know it must be a challenge to offer such care
Thanks for the tips and suggestions.
Hope you have a blessed day~
These are great tips and principles to keep in mind, Don! My parents died a while back and I never had to serve in a caretaking role. But my husband’s parents are getting very near this stage of life. So I know we will need to use these before we know it! Thanks to you and to Melanie for sharing your wisdom and experience with us!
Thank you, Beth, for sharing your story.
I thought Don did such a good job with his suggestions.
I’m keeping this handy too. We are almost there ourselves.
Hope you have a blessed day~
I live with and care for my mother who has beginning stages of dementia. The tips i would include are 1: check with your county services to see what they provide. They often provide discounts on home care, meals wheels, home maint and installation of safety devices. 2. There are great options available for medicine reminders. You can get alarm clocks with up to 5alarms per day that will say “time to your medicine for Monday afternoon” as an example. You can also use a phone service that calls their phone art a specified time and day and when they answer they hear a recording of your choice telling them whatever you need to remind them of. Taking their medicine. Locking their for. Whatever. If they do not answer after 4 tries the service calls you. It’s a small fee. 3. My mom likes me to rub lotion on her knees every single night. I always always do it. It used to annoy me when she asks me every night of i will come and rub her knees. I have done it every night for 4years. But i realized how important it is to her and why. She doesn’t get enough human touch anymore. Now i make sure too hug her , hold her hand, and just give her small touches as often as possible. Humans need to have human touch. Its important for all of us. 4. Make them a playlist of music they like and whenever they are in the car with you play it. You will be surprised how much it will mean to them as they sing along with songs they haven’t heard on years and those sins bring back memories and the music makes them smile. My loves old time bluegrass and we always have a ball singing together in the car.
Thanks so much for the additional tips! These are great!
Sounds like you are a wonderful daughter and friend to your mom! You go, Girl!
Hope you have a wonderful day today~
Thank you for this! I’m considering having my Grandma come live with us. She is getting to the point where she can no longer take care of herself. I have been doing research to see what it would be like having her in our home and what that would mean for us before we take on such a big commitment. I am only 27 years old and have 3 small children. I realize I would have to make sure my kids can’t get into her medication but what other complications with having young children and taking care of a loved one can you see arising? Any help would be appreciated!
Wow! It sounds like you are living in an interesting season right now.
Being a young mom with three small children, I would proceed very slowly and carefully on this! I know you love your grandmother and want to help her. However, you have your hands full as it is.
Have you discussed this with others that you respect? A pastor? Your parents? Your husband’s parents? Close friends?
My encouragement to you would be to look for another alternative for your grandmother. Maybe an assisted living place? Maybe she could move in with a roommate? Maybe she could move in with your parents or one of your siblings?
To take on an elderly relative full time is huge!
I will pray that God will give you wisdom on exactly what you should do.
Please keep me posted. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are good tips, Melanie. This is a tough, tough phase of life. My SIL lives with my 94 and 96 yo inlaws. it is a huge blessing. My MIL, if she were in any kind of facility, we would have lost her long ago. Marilyn is a gift by allowing them to live in their own home and feed themselves (a facility wouldn’t have the patience to let my MIL eat on her own at her own pace). They live about 30 minutes away. My husband and I take turns “grandma sitting” so Marilyn can get some things done or have some time to herself. Tim goes every Sunday. He fixes their breakfast and they watch Moody Church together. I go every other week. If there is an emergency, we’re there more often. It’s not a lot, really … But it makes a huge difference for Marilyn. Regarding hygiene — keeping their teeth clean is essential. Bacteria in the mouth, sores, cavities, can cause major (if not end of life) setbacks for the elderly. One of the hardest things is watching my FILs frustration. His wife behaves in ways he doesn’t understand — yet he is older, too, and it’s hard to explain to him that it’s best just not to get upset. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of love to help them get through these years.
Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment, Dianne!
It sounds like you and your family are in this stage of life right now. I understand it can be very hard.
I appreciate your additional ideas and suggestions.
Asking God to give you much grace as you all navigate through this season.
Blessings to you,
Melanie – this is so good, I am sharing it on the MySideof50 FB page on Sunday. Again – thanks for the wonderful and practical information.
Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing this post!
It is amazing how many people are serving their aging parents.
I hope many people will be encouraged!
Everything you said is so true. I spent 2015 caring for both of my parents before they passed away. I would add keep all legal paper work – medical directives, Power of Attorney, DNR with you at all times. I had a bag with all the paperwork that I carried with me whenever I left the house.
Thank you for stopping by to leave a comment tonight. I appreciate your visit.
I’m very sorry to hear of your parents passing away. It sounds like you were an amazing daughter to them.
And, your suggestion to keep up with all of the paperwork is a great one. I appreciate you adding that one to the list.
Praying God will bless you~
I am in my 6th year of caring for my parents. We lost my Dad 2 years ago. My Mother has dementia and is 97 years young.
Thank you SO much for sharing this at our Party in Your PJs link party. My mother will turn 90 in May and she is amazingly in good shape (mentally and physically) and can take good care of herself for now.
This is good advice for the days that will be in our future.
It’s rather odd (or meant to be) that a few minutes before I read this, I read an interesting article about how we used to let people die. It is exceptionally well written — by an emergency room doctor. Here’s the link just for your information:
Again, thanks so much for participating in our link party!
My mom takes care of my grandmother, and these are so true and more. Luckily, my grandma is the one with the sense of humor, so it keeps things interesting and entertaining 🙂
Thanks so much for joining us on The Alder Collective! Pinning, and we hope to see you again this week!
Sounds like your mom is a great daughter! You have a wonderful role model to follow! Be sure to give them both a big hug! And, aren’t you grateful for a grandma with a good sense of humor!
Enjoying connecting with the link up group!
Thanks for stopping by to leave a kind note~
The wonderful suggestions from Brother Don really brought back some intense, vivid memories. My parents moved to our home when they became unable to care for themselves without assistance. After Mother’s condition got to the point where she needed nursing care, I had to put her into a local nursing home (if receiving pastoral counseling for THAT guilt isn’t suggested in these two blogs, then here’s that suggestion). Dad tried for a bit to stay with us, but he was absolutely miserable without Mom – 48 years of marriage will do that to you. He ended up moving into the Assisted Living side of the facility to be close to her. He would go to her room after breakfast and return to his room at night. In addition to constantly taking them to doctor’s appointments – Mom had leukemia and Dad had large cell lymphoma cancer – it completely drained our bank account. My siblings didn’t contribute financially, and the closest one was in Atlanta. I deeply love my parents, and by the time both passed I – we – were emotionally decimated. It took many, many years to get over everything. I still miss them dearly, and like most who have lost their parents, I think of calling them on holidays, weekends, and at odd times the thought just pops into my head that I need to go see them. Everything that Don mentioned, as well as the ones that will come up tomorrow, are completely true and apply to all who are caring for a loved one, especially aging parents.
Thank you for what you do, Melanie. You minister to so many every day by sharing your heart. God’s best to you and Randy – Bill
Wow, Bill. What a challenge you all have been through!
It does seem like this issue complicates, costs, and absolutely wears out the caregivers. I’m so sorry for all that caring cost you, but I know your parents must have been so grateful to have you as their son.
It sounds like you did everything you could to care for them. Praying God will bless you for the way you showed honor to your mom and dad!
And, thank you for stopping by to leave such a thoughtful word!
You have encouraged me today!
Blessings to you and Becky~
Bill, thank you for your comments. I can tell that you experienced a lot of the same things we did. The emotional part can be much more draining than the physical part of caregiving. I know we would go through times when we would think, “I’m grateful can take care of her, but what about me and my needs?” It can be a time of constantly fighting the ‘guilt trip’ and sometimes the parent can add fuel trip. Also contributing to guilt are those feelings when you hate to see them incapacitated as they are and just want to see the Lord call them home. Even though we know we will grieve when they are gone, I believe most caregivers want to see them find sweet relief for all their pain and frustrations. Of course Satan will try to convince us that we just don’t want to be a caregiver any more, which just causes more emotional upheaveal as we try to evaluate our ‘real’ feelings.
You are so right and Melanie and Randy – dedicated servants of our Lord.
Thanks Don and Melanie. While it was definitely a trying period in our lives, it was also a blessing to be able to care for them. Really a lot of mixed emotions like you said, Don. And I would never want to feel, or sound, like I was bitter about all of the challenges. I hope my children saw how important it is to honor our parents in all ways, in sickness and in health, and how to meet many of life’s challenges with your head up and fully depending on the Lord for strength, guidance, and His provision. Blessings to you both – have a safe weekend. Bill
Bless you, Bill!
I believe you and Becky are wonderful role models for your children!
Keep on living for Jesus!
You are a blessing~
That’s a great suggestion, Leah!
Thanks for sharing this!
And, I’m very sorry to hear that you have lost both of your parents. This can’t have been easy.
I am on the back side of this since the death of my Mom 14 months ago. My Daddy passed in 2004. One other thing I would add is to keep an updated list of their medications with you.
Leah, I am sorry to hear you have lost your parents. From your comments though, it sounds as if you were their caregiver during their twilight years. What a great suggestion (and one I should have included)! “What medicine is she taking?” seemed to be one of the first questions we were asked often at doctor’s appointments, hospitals, and emergency rooms. Thank you for that reminder!
Melanie – thank you for sharing these wonderful insights and practical advice from Don Woodard. He is a beloved brother in Christ and his encouragement and wisdom are always appreciated, focused, and Christ-like.
Don is a great guy, isn’t he, Randy!
Thank you Melanie. A lot of good stuff rubbed off on me when you two were at Ellendale. Wish y’all could have been there longer so even more could rubbed off. Love you guys and appreciate what you both are doing to serve the Lord!
Randy, thank you so much for your encouraging comments. I hope that I never forget how you ‘filled the gap’ at Ellendale Baptist Church during a challenging transitional time. Your positive approach to sharing how God’s Word applied to our situation was ‘on point’ and inspiring. I still remember how you preached on the different aspects of the church. Thank you again for all you did with tenacity and perseverance!
He mentioned quite a few that hit home. So true in every tip.
Yeah! I’m so glad that you could relate!
I thought his tips were so practical and helpful!
Michelle, thank you for your comments. It sounds like you have been down the same road we have, so you KNOW the challenges of caregiving. It can be hard, but handled in the right way, with the right attitudes, it can also be a time that gives us a greater awareness of God’s presence. Thanks!