5 Ways You Can Help Your Elderly Parents Live Independently

When parents get older, they usually plan for retirement so that they won’t be a burden on their kids. On the other hand, the children of aging parents often make their own preparations. Sometimes they will move closer to where their parents live so they can provide a helping hand. They might even buy or renovate their property so that there is always room for their elderly parents to stay. More importantly, though, is being able to ensure that your parents are completely comfortable as they get older. What everything comes down to is assisting your elderly parents to live independent lives.

1. Look into Home Health Aides and Private Nursing

As people get older, their health can start to diminish. Some health issues can be completely related to genetics and have nothing to do with living a healthy lifestyle. In short, it is natural for your elderly parents to require more assistance and medical intervention. However, needing a little help getting dressed in the morning or stepping into the shower doesn’t require elderly people to give up their independence. So, set your parents up with private nursing services or simply look into getting them a home health aide. Having someone to come in and assist your parent with cooking, cleaning, and general duties around the house will make them feel much better about themselves.  

2. Insist Upon a Medical Alert System

Regardless of whether you make room for your aging parents to live in your home or if they live in a secluded cabin 1,000 miles away, there should always be a way for them to contact emergency services. Cell phones are great for calling ambulances, getting help from a doctor, or calling the fire department, but elderly people are very likely to have episodes when they can’t even operate a phone. A good quality medical alert system requires only the touch of a button. Emergency services can be summoned as soon as the operator assesses the situation. In many instances, the proper use of a medical alert system is much more effective than calling 911.

3. Choosing a Home Your Elderly Parents Can Move About Freely

You can choose to move your elderly parents into a retirement community, a retirement home, make room for them at your home, or just make some changes to where they are already living. Single level ranches, apartments, condos, and cottages are great for the elderly as they only take up one floor. Aging people generally like to avoid going up and downstairs as it can be hard on their joints, or even lead to an accidental slip and fall. If your parents do live in a home where there are stairs, you can have railings or ramps installed that will help them with safety. Also consider modifying the bathroom area so that your parents can easily use the tub, shower, and toilet without fear of injury.

4. Developing a Family Emergency Safety Plan

Do you have a spare set of keys to your aging parents’ home? Does everybody know what do to in case a fire breaks out in the middle of the night? Is there a list of emergency contacts, including your parents’ doctors that you can access at any time? Emergencies and accidents are going to happen, and there is no telling who is going to be involved. If something happens to you or your parents’ caretaker, what is the backup plan? Everyone in your immediate family needs to know what to do as well as who to contact. Create a family emergency safety plan and email all pertinent information to your loved ones.

5. Stepping in When You Truly Need to Help

Some people, young or old, are just plain stubborn. And those who are least likely to ask for help can sometimes get themselves in more trouble being foolhardy than requesting assistance before a situation gets really messy. Since you probably know your parents better than anyone else, you can actually intercede before stubbornness gets in the way of independence. So, if you know that your elderly parent is going to drive to the grocery store, there might be times when you have to simply take away their keys. Helping someone who is fiercely independent from hurting themselves or others shouldn’t be seen as being controlling. Instead, it is just fighting stubbornness with an even stronger will. Tell your elderly parents again and again that they need your help and that you are happy to provide it. Having this mindset will actually help them to stay independent.

As people get older, their needs simply change. Even if your parents are in perfect health and don’t appear to need any kind of help to remain living independently, it doesn’t hurt to put safety measures in place. A medical alert system can literally be a lifesaver in case of heart attack, stroke, or slip and fall accidents. Creating a family emergency safety plan will be useful even for your extended family. Lastly, talk to your parents about what their concerns are about aging gracefully and independently.


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Kathryn M.
12. May 2020
Kathryn M.
12. May 2020
I can't agree more with your point about getting a medical alert system. My elderly father is so bad at keeping a cell phone on him and charged, so picking out a device designed specifically for emergencies has made everyone in the family feel a lot better. We decided to go with Alert1 ([Link deleted]but I'm curious if any other readers have good experiences with other services. Thank you in advance.


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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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