5 Tips for Helping Your Aging Parents Retain Their Independence

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We all want to help our parents meet the goal of aging in place independently and happily. Evaluating your loved ones' current living situation and making necessary changes now increases the likelihood they'll be able to stay in their homes for as long as possible.

Here are five things you can do to ensure your parents can keep their independence in the years ahead.

1. Assess Caregiving Needs.

Determine what your parent needs help with on a daily or weekly basis. For example, would they be better off if they were having the groceries delivered? Can your dad follow his medication schedule? Do your parents need help with housework? Evaluate their needs, and then match up service providers to take care of those needs.

One major factor in an elderly person's independence is their ability to drive. If they are not capable of doing so without possibly causing injury to themselves or others, then arrange other transportation options. Many municipalities, volunteer groups, and nonprofit organizations offer seniors rides for little to no fee.

2. Make Home Modifications.

Next, assess your parents' home and determine whether or not it can safely sustain them now and in the future.

Mobility and the ability to monitor their safety is key. If possible, make modifications to their existing home. Consider (where possible) tearing down walls to create a more navigable floor plan, installing easier-to-access showers and sinks, and modifying fixtures so they're more user-friendly.

Also, look into home monitoring systems, which are becoming more sophisticated every year. Some technologies even have the ability to detect changes in your parents' activity. For example, if the system senses that Mom took a fall, it can send instant alerts to you and 911 in emergency situations.

If their home cannot be modified to accommodate your parents as they age, then be proactive about looking for a new residence (e.g., a new single-story home in a neighborhood near you or assisted living).

3. Find Community Resources.

Until recently, local resources for seniors mostly consisted of adult day care centers and Meals on Wheels programs. But as the population of adults age 65-plus escalates over the next couple of decades, more resources will become available.

One such resource is the "village" concept. Villages connect members with resources they need to live at home safely and comfortably. Many villages are neighborhood organizations that rely on volunteers to provide services. For an annual fee, these communities help senior members manage household tasks they can no longer handle. When volunteers aren't able to provide services, villages refer members to discounted and vetted vendors. Look for a village close to your parent's home.

4. Enlist Local Support and Companionship.

Many adult children live hundreds or even thousands of miles from their parents. While Skype and phone calls are helpful, there's no substitute for live check-ins to make sure your parent is comfortable, safe, and happy.

Identify and recruit local family members, friends, or neighbors who can stop in to be your eyes and ears.

If your parent is lonely and would like round-the-clock companionship, consider pet ownership. Pets can reduce feelings of isolation and give people a focus outside themselves. They allow people to take on a caregiving role that not only provides a reason to get out of bed, but also an overall sense of purpose. PAWS' Seniors for Seniors adoption program places older dogs and cats with senior citizens.

5. Do the Right Thing.

Even after you've made the necessary changes, there may come a time when your parents are no longer safe living on their own in their home. That is the time to consider moving them into a more secure, monitored environment.

While leaving one's home is difficult and often viewed as a last resort, quality of care means doing the right thing at the right time. Your parents' safety is the first priority. If it will compromise their well-being, it isn't worth keeping them at home.

Carefree Caring

Sit down with your parents and thoroughly evaluate their current living situation. By taking these steps, you'll not only unburden your parents, but also increase their chances of aging in place independently, happily, and safely for as long as possible.



Nicole Seghetti is a contributing writer to The Motley Fool.

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8 Comments

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willim_care

My parents have recently taken out a reverse mortgage-At first I thought it was a horrible idea since we have had the home in our family now for many generations but after speaking to my lender they explained that my parents home be mine as long as I can pay off anything that the borrow.

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December 04 2013 at 1:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cyrosie

Wonder how old the writer is?. What seniors want and need is support, companionship and understanding. Not for the kids who can't wait until their parents die so that they can inherit what they feel if their rightful share or maybe, not so right.

July 15 2013 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Holli, Chaney

Tip 1.. Don't let them move in and become dependent on you.

July 14 2013 at 10:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
phpoling

I'm taking care of my dad who is 76 and he live with me. We get along great. That's the most important.

July 14 2013 at 12:48 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
ambsalman

How about if you move them in to stay with you , and provide them all these services in the comfort of ypur home:) . just imagine if they have abandoned you miles away with all these services available :) after all they took care of you when you were in diapers and could not even walk , talk or do anything. I SERIOUSLY THINK ITS TIME TO PAY BACK :)
How many of you agree ??????

July 13 2013 at 11:28 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
MSWallett1

I enjoyed reading about your aging independence very seriorsly. I did it
all for my mom and made her very comfortable and happy till the end.
But I never thought about applying it for myself someday. But today, past
80 years, fairly healthty, active enough to do most chores, but becoming easily fatigued or procrastinating more or wanting to be more isolated,
I assume due to depression, made me realize I need to get rid of my
pride and seriously start taking advantage of needed resources available. This information is very pertinent to people like us who have
been caregives for our families and friends and forgot about ourselves.
Thank you very much for caring for all of humankind.
ERY SINCERELY,
Maria Wallett

July 13 2013 at 8:39 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
lcvickers8

LETS GET OUR COUNTRY BACK, FOR THE USA

July 13 2013 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
boowah

I have to add tip #6........vote Republicans out!

July 13 2013 at 9:44 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to boowah's comment
summerchaser

why .......... that is such an uneducated remark........

July 13 2013 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
h.hughjardon

That's really stupid, as it's the dems saying don't touch medicare, which will be insolvent by 2024 if do nothing, as they wish.

July 14 2013 at 4:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply