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Caring for Elderly Parents at Home: A Guide to Making It Easier and Safer

An adult son sits on the edge of his elderly father's bed, gently resting his hand on his father's forehead in a comforting manner. This illustrates the loving bonds formed through caring for aged parents at home.
Caring for elderly parents at home with compassion.

Caring for an elderly parent at home is rewarding but can be draining without the right support. Use this guide to get tips on home modifications, managing medications, encouraging activity, transportation options and finding respite care when caring for mom or dad.

Reduce Fall Risks with These Home Modifications

Falls become more common as we age and can cause serious injury. Make these adjustments to reduce fall risks:

  • Install grab bars in key locations - Sturdy grab bars in the shower, near the toilet and along stairways give your parent something secure to grasp for stability and support if unsteady. Opt for wide-gripping bars that can fit an arthritic hand.

  • Improve lighting throughout the home - Ensure all rooms and stairwells are brightly lit. Use maximum wattage bulbs and night lights. Replace any bulbs that flicker or dim. Proper lighting prevents tripping on uneven surfaces.

  • Clear clutter and secure rugs - Pick up books, papers, shoes and any objects that clutter walkways. Remove or use double-sided tape to secure loose rugs. A clear path prevents tripping.

  • Use shower and toileting aids - A shower seat allows sitting while bathing. Grab bars and a hand-held shower head provide stability getting in and out. A bedside commode or raised toilet seat makes getting on and off easier.

  • Rearrange furniture to clear paths - Move coffee tables, plant stands and chairs that create obstacles. Widen pathways between rooms to improve mobility with walkers or wheelchairs.

  • Properly Managing Multiple Medications

Juggling multiple prescriptions can be confusing. Stay organized with these medication management tips:

  • Use a pill organizer - Sorting pills into a box with compartments for each day and time prevents missed doses. Mark the compartments clearly. Manage refills early so you don’t run out.

  • Create a medication list - Include drug names, dosages, prescribing doctor and purpose. Note any changes. This helps communicating with doctors and avoids medication conflicts.

  • Set phone reminders for dosing times - Program your phone to alert when it’s time to take each medication. This prevents forgotten doses that impact health.

  • Check instructions carefully - Read prescription labels to ensure the correct dose and frequency. Clarify any unclear instructions with the pharmacist.

  • Properly store medications - Keep meds in original containers away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight. An enclosed pill organizer on the kitchen counter is convenient and safe.

  • Safely dispose unused meds - Never flush old meds. Bring to a pharmacy, doctor's office or hazardous waste disposal event to avoid misuse.

Encouraging Physical Activity and Exercise

Inactivity can cause increased pain, stiffness, weakness and bone density loss. Build in more movement:

  • Do seated exercises every day - Stretching, leg lifts, arm circles increase range of motion. Even 10 minutes helps. Work up slowly.

  • Take short walks around the house - Walking aids like canes or walkers provide stability if balance is poor. Distance doesn't matter, just avoid long sedentary periods.

  • Visit local senior centers - Many offer exercise classes for seniors including tai chi, yoga and low-impact aerobics appropriate for their fitness levels.

  • See a physical therapist - They provide personalized exercise programs to target specific mobility issues and risks like falls or joint problems.

Eating Well: Nutrition Tips for Seniors

Good nutrition provides energy and helps seniors stay active. Adapt their meals with these tips:

  • Add healthy frozen meals - For quick preparation, keep easy frozen entrées like chicken dishes, meatloaf or fish on hand to pop in the microwave when cooking seems difficult.

  • Boost nutrition with smoothies - Blend fruit, yogurt, milk and spinach for an easy nourishing drink. Use ice cubes for thickness if chewing is difficult.

  • Stay hydrated - Water is essential. Flavor it with lemon slices or offer diluted juices and decaffeinated coffee and tea. Set a water bottle nearby as a visual cue to drink.

  • Choose nutritious finger foods - Snack on carrot sticks with hummus, cubes of cheese, sliced apples and peanut butter if using utensils is tiring.

  • Use vitamin supplements - A multivitamin provides a nutritional boost if appetite is low. Calcium and vitamin D support bone health. A B12 supplement aids energy. Ask doctors for recommendations.

Finding Transportation to Medical Appointments

Driving often becomes difficult as we age. Arrange rides to doctors using these options:

  • Rideshare services - Uber and Lyft offer some wheelchair accessible vehicles. Schedule well in advance since availability is limited. Activate the senior setting for extra assistance.

  • Paratransit shuttles - These provide door-to-door transport for seniors and disabled people who can’t use public transit. Fares are subsidized.

  • Medical transportation - Some non-emergency medical transport services take patients to medical and therapy appointments. Fees may be covered by insurance.

  • Volunteer driver networks - Check local religious groups, charities and senior centers for pre-arranged volunteers who will drive seniors for necessities.

  • Family and friends - Set up a shared calendar where family and friends can sign up to drive your loved one to appointments coming up.

Finding Respite Care for Family Caregivers

Caring for aging parents round-the-clock leads to burnout. Prioritize your own rest with these respite options:

  • Adult day care - These centers offer activities, socializing and therapies during weekdays, allowing you a break. Many provide safe transport too.

  • In-home respite care - Home care agencies send trained respite workers to care for your loved one in their own home so you can take a few hours or a weekend break.

  • Short-term nursing facility respite stays - Some assisted living homes offer temporary 2-week respite stays so you can travel without worry. Medicaid may cover costs.

  • Church and volunteer support - Many churches and non-profits offer volunteer respite services for free or very low cost. Tap into community goodwill.

  • Family relief - Have extended family spend weekends or weeks offering caregiver breaks. Or pay trusted relatives who you’d like to assist.

Caring for aging parents at home has challenges but great rewards. Use these tips to create a safe, supportive environment that meets your loved one’s needs while also caring for yourself. With some adjustments and assistance, you can take on this role with less stress and improved confidence.


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