Guide to Caring for Aging Parents

Written by Julia on November 4, 2015

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14.1 percent of the population is 65 and older. This 2013 statistic projects that by 2040 the percentage will rise to 21.7 percent.

With almost one-quarter of the U.S. population heading into their elder years, adult children and their families will be faced with the responsibilities and decisions for caring for their aging parents.

Often, caregivers are thrust into the situation by an emergency—a fall, an illness, or apparent cognitive issues—and are forced to make critical, life-changing decisions under pressure. To avoid this emotional and financial stress, it’s important to plan ahead for long-term care while you still have time.

First Steps

It’s important to realize that, in most cases, the care of an elder occur in stages and each stage requires a new round of assessment and decision making.

The first step, however, is to introduce the idea of long-term care to your aging parents. This can be a difficult conversation and will likely require more than one conversation to allow the reality of the situation to sink in.

Discuss with your parents your concerns about their health and quality of life. Be sure to also discuss power of attorney, financial planning, and healthcare options and desires. Leaving this important issue up to chance often leads to conflict and stress.

Staying at Home

Seniors often prefer to remain in their own home as they age. In fact, according to the State of Caregiving survey, 83 percent of respondents lived either in their own home or in the home of a family member.

As this option becomes increasingly difficult to manage, there are service providers that can assist elders. They help elders stay in their own homes for as long as possible. They also help families who have moved their parents into their homes for care.

Home Care

One option for at-home care is to hire caregivers from agencies to assist your parents with their daily activities, such as dressing and meal preparation. Caregivers can also provide transportation, as well as companionship, for elders who would otherwise spend most of their time alone.

Adult Day Services

Adult day programs can be helpful if your parent needs supervision or assistance during the day while you are at work. These centers provide social activities and get elders out of the house to be with other seniors.

Respite Care

Respite care is short-term, temporary care for your aging parent. Those who are caring for an aging parent soon realize the stress of the task, especially as health declines. Respite provides a break so you can recharge and take much needed time for yourself. It’s an often underutilized option but one of the most important things you can do, not only for your parent but also for yourself.

Elder Housing Options

Sometimes, caring for a parent reaches a point where his needs require more attention than you are able to provide. This can happen due to work obligations, responsibilities to children or because your parent’s health is rapidly declining, requiring more care and attention.

In this situation, you might consider options for a new living arrangement, one that will give your parent the necessary care.

Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are usually in the form of private apartments, sometimes with a kitchenette for cooking light meals. Staff are available 24 hours a day to ensure safety and are available in case of an emergency. They provide assistance with the activities of daily living, such as housekeeping, dressing and transportation.

In addition, there is plenty of planned social activities as well as a common dining room that serves three meals per day.

Residential Care

Similar to assisted living, residential care facilities are homes that have been modified to provide private rooms and areas for residents. This kind of living is more personalized than an assisted living facility. They have more supervision and focused attention on basic activities such as dressing, eating and walking. This is a good option for seniors who are less independent but do not need 24-hour care.

Memory/Dementia Care

When dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is an issue, safety is of the utmost importance. Memory care units have trained staff to provide special care, so that patients are kept safe from wandering off by themselves. These units are usually located within an assisted living facility.

Nursing Home

If your parent needs daily medical care, it may be time for a nursing home. Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide 24-hour medical care for elders who are suffering from serious and debilitating medical conditions. It may be tough to choose a nursing home, but sometimes it is the best option to ensure the best care for your aging parent.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is often overlooked by families caring for loved ones. However, when the end is near, hospice can provided much-needed support to everyone.

Hospice care provides a team of medical and psychological professionals and volunteers. Additionally, they act as spiritual support to ensure there is comfort, peace and dignity at the end of life. Hospice care can be provided in a hospice facility or at home.


It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you are suddenly thrown into caring for an aging parent. Take the time to plan ahead. Talk about the options for the future. Settle money and legal issues beforehand. Doing these will make this life transition much smoother.