aging parents with young grandkids

Do’s and Don’ts for Caring for Your Aging Parents

The issue of caring for aging parents will confront more Americans every year for the foreseeable future.

According to the Population Reference Bureau [source], currently, 1 in 7 Americans are 65 years or older.  If current rates hold, the American population of people eligible for retirement will double to nearly 100 million people, or 1 in 4 Americans, by the year 2060.

Based on research from the AARP [source], nearly 1 in 8 Americans have cared for an adult aged 50 years or more without charge.  That equates to nearly 35 million Americans.

Clearly, aging Americans will require more care from younger people, particularly adult children.  You might be one of them.  Where should you start?


  1. Starting a sensitive conversation with your parents

    Having a sober talk with your parents about future medical care might be a very sensitive discussion.  Yet, this bridge can be crossed if you talk with your parents with empathy and clarity.

    Inviting a professional to help you might make the conversation easier.  Parents may feel less pressured to listen to perspective from an outside, objective party.

  2. Empathy Helps

    Adult children changing their role to caregiver from having been recipients of their parents’ care in their youth might be difficult for some older parents to accept.  Putting yourself in your parents’ shoes can help you find creative and sensitive ways to guide your parents through this transition.

    Be kind.  Show genuine concern for your parents who cared for you earlier in life.  Even be prepared for emotional baggage to pop up, but do not be discouraged.  Such is normal for adults entering the golden years of their lives.

    It is difficult for your parents (or anyone) to give up their independence.  Remember when you were growing up and how hard you fought to gain independence.  Put yourself in the shoes of your parents who will need more help with daily life activities as they age.

  3. Clarity Empowers

    Clarity is needed to help your parents help themselves.  You need them to give you the right information so you can figure out options for giving them the care they need.

    Explain to them why it is in their best interests to share information with you.  You want to help them obtain the best care and living situation possible.  Be clear about what specific information you need them to give you.

  4. Ask your parents the right questions to help them

    This list of questions can get you started on researching care options for your parents:

    • Primary doctor
    • Specialists
    • Medicines and supplements
    • Allergies to medication

    You also ought to know where medical and estate management documents are located:

    • Medicare card
    • Insurance coverage, cards, and other information
    • Durable power of attorney for healthcare[1]
    • Will, living will, trusts, and other documents²



  1. Don’t be sloppy about gathering information

    Save your family time and hassle by gathering as much information at the beginning as possible.  You should be diligent in preparing your questions.  Scripts and lists might help you, but nothing is failsafe.

  2. Never let this be the final conversation

    Be prepared to continue the dialogue with your parents after this first conversation. It is likely that you will have to remind them of why you are helping them the way you are.  Sometimes, you might have to make modifications to your initial plan.  Having good dialogue with your parents can cushion them in the event further changes are needed.

  3. Don’t take on the burden alone if possible

    Invite other siblings and relatives to the discussions. Typically, one person takes a lead role in caring for parents, but other relatives can support and desire for their voices to be heard.  If possible, do not assume the burden alone.  Greater prospects for success come in the presence of many than of few (or one).

    It helps especially in the beginning when everyone puts their heads together in figuring out the next stage of life for aging parents.  Your parents are more likely to appreciate your efforts to care for them when they see other family members united.

  4. Don’t do tomorrow what you can do today

    The sooner you learn of important issues in your parents’ lives, the better informed you will be if and as future crises arise.  You need to know when they need your help.  Monitor symptoms such as changes in weight, failure to take their medicine, new health issues, and lack of social activity.  Avoid procrastination so you can be on top of things with your parents.


Regardless of your past with your parents, this new chapter in life can reveal tensions for everyone.  Pursuing open communication with empathy and clarity improves the chances for your parents to adjust well to this new time in their lives.

Let us help you to benefit from our experience with walking people through the issues of caring for aging parents.


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[1] Power of attorney laws can vary from state to state. An estate strategy with trusts might entail intricate tax rules and regulations. Consider finding a competent estate management professional before using such strategies.

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