Caring for Elderly Parents | Steps to Achieve Success

Caring for Elderly Parents | Steps to Achieve Success

Many adults are called on to care for their aging parents at some point. Over 20% of adults in the United States reported caring for a friend or family member in the last month; over half of these had been providing care for over two years.

Caregiving can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful and exhausting. People caring for elderly parents with complex self-care or mobility needs can spend up to 253 hours per month[1] assisting them. If you are caring for elderly parents, you mustn’t neglect your own needs as this can quickly lead to caregiver burnout. Read on for tips on how to care for elderly parents while taking care of your well-being.

Feeling trapped caring for elderly parents isn’t uncommon. Many people abruptly find themselves in the position of primary caregiver as their parent’s needs escalate; you may go from occasionally helping with household chores to providing day-to-day care before you have time to think about it. Caring for an elderly friend or family member full-time can be deeply rewarding, but it also comes with an increase in responsibility that can quickly lead to burnout.

The key to providing successful care is to make sure your own needs are being met while looking after others. This includes learning how to manage stress, practice self-care, and seek help when needed.

Be Realistic About How Much Care Your Parent Needs

Each individual has different requirements for care, and your first step is to find out what your parent’s specific needs are. Some older adults just need help running errands and taking care of household chores. However, those with complex medical problems, like dementia, may need help with a wide variety of daily tasks[2] including eating, bathing, and dressing.

Be realistic about the level of care your parent needs and, more importantly, your ability to provide it. If your parent has advanced needs, they may be safer and more comfortable in a senior living facility where they have 24-hour access to healthcare. Even if you can cater to your parent’s needs at home, you may want to consider hiring a paid carer[3] to provide some healthcare services.

Create a Strong Support System

Having a strong support system around you is of utmost importance when caring for an elderly relative. If you have siblings, talk to them about sharing the responsibility of care so you each have the opportunity to take breaks. Making time to unwind and do things you enjoy will go a long way toward relieving stress and preventing burnout.

Create a Strong Support System

If you don’t have siblings, speak to other family members or consider home care support services[4]. Hiring professional caregivers, even on a part-time basis, will give you time to step back and take time for yourself throughout the week.

Is It Normal To Feel Trapped Caring For An Elderly Parent?

Feeling trapped while caring for an elderly parent is common, and is often a symptom of caregiver burnout[5]. One study found that around 1 in 5 people[6] caring for older adults experience burnout with symptoms including irritability, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. Burnout rates were higher for people caring for dementia patients, usually as a result of navigating the more challenging behaviors of people with dementia[7].

Carers of elderly relatives often feel trapped by a loss of freedom, as more of their free time is devoted to assisting their parents. The time invested in providing care often takes focus from other aspects of your life, such as your career. If you feel you don’t have time for work or basic self-care, arranging for a part-time carer to take over some of your responsibilities can help you regain a sense of freedom.

Around 38% of family caregivers[8] experience some degree of financial strain from providing care. This can contribute to depression and anxiety, and contribute to feelings of burnout. If you are struggling with the financial burden of caring for a family member, you may qualify for financial support.

Prioritizing Your Well-being to Prevent Burnout

Prioritizing your well-being is key to preventing caregiver burnout. It’s important to give yourself credit for the hard work you do as a caregiver and to carve out time to take care of your own needs. Even if you don’t feel you have time for yourself, you must practice basic self-care[9] to maintain your mental and physical health.

  • Practice relaxation techniques

Relaxation exercises like breathwork, yoga, meditation, or tai chi can help to alleviate stress and promote mental and physical health. This is essential for people in high-stress situations and can help prevent burnout.

  • Prioritize sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for preventing caregiver burnout. Make sure you maintain a healthy sleep routine and consider relaxation techniques if you find it difficult to wind down at night.

  • Eat well

It can be easy to overlook food when you are busy caring for others, but adequate nutrition is a cornerstone of good health.

  • Stay socially connected

Being a family caregiver can be isolating, as more of your free time is devoted to assisting your parents. Staying connected to friends and other family members can help keep you grounded and prevent caregiver burnout.

  • Use support systems when necessary

If you are struggling with the workload of caring for elderly parents, research support services are available in your area. If possible, call on other family members to step up and share the responsibility of care.

Financial and Legal Preparation

It may be necessary to make legal and financial plans for the future, especially if your parent has complex medical needs. Making these arrangements as soon as possible will allow them to have a say in their future care and can take the stress out of navigating these decisions later on.

Seeking Financial Assistance for Eligible Care Expenses

You may qualify for financial assistance if you are caring for elderly parents. This assistance may be provided by a government program[10] or your insurance company. Call your insurance provider or complete a financial assessment to see what options are available to you.

Understanding Legal Aspects: Power of Attorney, Wills, and Directives

There may come a time when your parents are unable to communicate or make decisions for themselves. Setting up a power of attorney gives someone else (an ‘attorney’) the authority to make decisions on their behalf. If your parent is diagnosed with a condition that will one day affect their mental capacity, such as dementia, you may need to make plans for their future financial and healthcare decisions now.

Consult with a lawyer for information on how to navigate a power of attorney, wills, and directives as soon as possible. Taking care of these matters while your parent can provide input will allow them a degree of control over their future care.

Specialized Care for Specific Conditions

Some medical conditions, like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, progress over several stages[11] and become more severe over time. As the symptoms of dementia evolve, the patient’s healthcare needs often become more complex. Most people with dementia eventually need assistance with all day-to-day tasks and, frequently, this level of care can only be provided in an assisted living facility.

If your parent has received a dementia diagnosis, it is important to think about how you - and they - want to navigate their future care. Making a care plan as soon as possible allows them to have a say in the management of their care and finances, and can take some of the stress out of making these decisions.

Specialized Care for Specific Conditions

Many people in the early stages of dementia have mild symptoms and can still be cared for at home. However, it is important to research the condition to gain an understanding of how their symptoms are likely to progress and how to navigate cognitive decline.


What age do most people need care?

85% of adults[12] over the age of 65 have a chronic health condition that may mean they require care. However, adults with the highest care requirement are those aged 85 and older.

Why is family important in elderly care?

Caring for an elderly parent can be immensely rewarding, but it can also be very stressful. Having a family support system is often critical for preventing burnout syndrome, as sharing the responsibility of care allows you to take breaks, practice self-care, and regain a sense of freedom.

What are the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress?

Caregiver stress, or caregiver burnout, is often characterized by anxiety and depression, frustration, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or sleep pattern, and feelings of hopelessness.

What to do when aging parents need help?

When aging parents show signs they need help, it's important to initiate open conversations, assess their needs, seek professional guidance, explore support services, and create a plan tailored to their well-being while respecting their independence.

How to get paid for caring for an elderly parent

Some government programs[13], such as Medicaid, pay people to provide care to their friends or family members. If you think you may qualify to be a paid caregiver, contact your local Medicaid office for more information.



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About The Author

Mary Anne Roberto, the co-founder of Always Home Connected is a dedicated CNA and a Certified Positive Approach To Care Consultant (Teepa Snow), specializing in dementia care.  Her goal is to create awareness about those experiencing cognitive changes and to provide caregivers with resources and tools that are necessary to help alleviate some of the challenges caregivers face on a day-to-day basis.