Taking Care Of Elderly Parents

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is age. Preconceived notions exist about age groups and ability, particularly when thinking about the elderly. But who are the elderly? In the US, because of the Social Security retirement age, sixty-five is generally the age regarded as senior. And yet, plenty of those 65+ don’t fit the stereotype, nor do they consider themselves elderly, senior or old. No two older adults have the same ability, any more than two 30-year-olds possess the same health picture. Behind all the numbers, however, lies a better measurement of health: Engaged living.


When thinking about older parents, a good place to start is with your own perceptions about their abilities. At times, we may hold good intentions, yet act from poor assumptions when caring for elderly parents. The goal here is to help them live as fully as possible at all ages.


With this in mind, let’s take a closer look.



Keep a clear perspective

The lines between dependence and independence blur as we age. Some people adapt and change well, others resist change. In that gray area, adult children may notice their parents struggling with day-to-day activities or prefer they make different life choices. Maybe they can no longer keep up their house or climb stairs safely; or perhaps they’ve reached a point where they should stop driving. Who gets to decide when a life change is needed?


First, think about their daily routine. Look at their living situation with an objective eye. Are they able to cook? Has anyone been injured due to a fall? Is one spouse carrying the load more than another? Before insisting on change, take time to observe what’s happening in the home and then look for opportunities to work with older parents to solve problems or minimize risks.


Ask siblings or other close family friends about their perceptions to gain insight and decide what’s important today and how to plan for future changes.



Think about the physical

Older adults who prefer to age in place may face small obstacles in their daily living that simply have to do with strength. Family can be helpful by asking if there’s some chore to be done. When asked, parents often will remember that heavy object they can’t move or a small repair job they can’t bend over to do. Maybe they need help cleaning out the garage to make room for the car or have donated goods but no truck to haul it away.  By helping them overcome a physical barrier, you’re fostering their confidence while solving a real problem.



What’s in the refrigerator?

Food, nutrition, and cooking are an important part of life no matter the age. With older adults in their 80s and 90s, food becomes a different challenge. Maybe your parents aren’t grocery shopping as much or tire easily from planning or cooking meals. If you notice they need help, offer to cook meals and freeze them for ready use. Or find a local prepared food vendor and buy frozen meals.


Grocery stores present challenges with parking, loud environments, and long walking distances inside stores. If your parents are comfortable with technology, connect them with food delivery services or order groceries online for convenient pick-up. Or offer to order their weekly groceries for them.



Prescriptions and Medications

Many older adults manage multiple prescriptions. If possible, ask for a list of their current medications in case they are hospitalized or transition between inpatient and outpatient facilities. Some practical tips for managing medications include:


  • Asking a spouse about the daily medication routine and if there are any concerns, especially if an older parent may have memory problems.
  • Establishing a relationship with their pharmacist. In case of questions or problems, you’ll have a ready resource. If transportation or mobility is an issue, consider on-site pharmacy services at a center or online prescription delivery services. For further guidance, contact your local Conviva Care Center.
  • Consider investing in medication dispensers that, at the very least, organize medicine by the day. For more oversight, new technologies have many smart features like automatic dispensing and remote alerts for family members.
  • Be aware of any changes in behavior or symptoms when a prescription is added or changed. Follow up with a Conviva Primary Care team member with any concerns.



Plan to ask for help

Knowing how to care for aging parents comes through personal experience and learning. Even then, every day brings a new reality. It can be hard knowing what to do or how to approach a challenging situation.


No one has all the answers. Asking for guidance from professionals can help provide clarity when the role feels heavy. Online and community resources exist to guide families on everything from memory loss to mobility.