1. Make sure they are on a consistent schedule- Routines are good. When taking care of a parent, it is important to follow a routine. Routines can often be determined by their medication schedule. Some medications need to be taken twice a day or with food. Make sure they wake up and go to bed around the same time every day and eat their meals on a steady schedule from day-to-day. A consistent routine will greatly reduce stress for your loved one and help them feel safe and secure.
  2. Help them stay on schedule with medication- You may not always be around to make sure your parent takes their medication. Make it easy for them to remember by setting an alarm, or by leaving notes to remind them when they need to be taking their medication. Organize their medicine in a weekly or daily pill holder with any special instructions written out clearly.
  3. Be sure they eat regularly and nutritiously- Take the time to meal prep. Easy, microwavable home-cooked meals will make your life easier and will allow your parent to feel some sort of independence when they get to pick what they eat from the refrigerator and warm it up. Label each container by day and add any instructions to make it even easier for them. Keep in mind that nutrition is different for older people, especially those with high cholesterol, diabetes, or other medical conditions. Prepare foods that are high in calcium, vitamin d, vitamin b12, fiber, and potassium.
  4. Help them maintain cleanliness- Set aside time to help with laundry, cleaning, and bathing. An easy way to ensure your loved one is not wearing dirty clothes is to label their clothes by day and hang them in the closet in that order. If you are not able to assist in bathing, try putting a note or checklist in the bathroom reminding them to shower, brush their teeth, comb their hair, etc.
  5. Make sure they get regular dental, vision and hearing checkups- Medical professionals recommend that the elderly get check-ups at least once a year, or more if recommended. Small health problems can quickly become big ones when the symptoms go unnoticed. Checkups should be conducted more frequently the older they get.
  6. Remember to always be encouraging- It’s not unusual for older family members to become frustrated and sad as they deal with lessening physical abilities and independence. Encourage your loved one and give them positive feedback to keep a smile on their face through rough times.
  7. Learn to be tolerant- Increase your patience. Your loved one will move slower, talk slower and often times forget what they needed to do. Set them up for success by hanging a calendar on the wall that shows when you are coming and when they have appointments. Give them plenty of time to get ready and out the door without feeling rushed. Try not to point out when they repeat themselves, no matter how frustrating it is for you, it is just as frustrating for them as their memory is fading.
  8. Allow them to be independent when they feel up for it- Help your loved one, but don’t do everything for them. If possible, let them do some chores on their own. If they are having a good day and feel they can bathe on their own or cook a meal, let them. Stand by and be ready to help if needed, but let them have any moments of independence they can.
  9. Make sure the house is safe- If your parent is in a wheelchair or uses a walker, be sure to make their house accessible. Be sure to put items they may need where they can easily reach them. Avoid putting things on top shelves where they may need to stand on something to reach it, potentially causing a fall. Lower cabinets may also be dangerous as they may not be able to bend down enough to reach the item. Declutter and organize the house, move furniture and close closet doors to prevent possible tripping hazards. Bathroom safety is very important if they will be showering on their own. Install handrails and put in non-slip mats and rugs to prevent slipping.
  10. Get them an emergency button- Make sure help is always at their fingertips. The best option is a button worn around their neck so if they fall they can press the button and help will be on the way. Make sure important numbers are on speed dial so they can reach you, the police or ambulance whenever they need to.
  11. Regular exercise is important- Exercising regularly can reduce the risk of strokes or heart attacks, prevent falling, reduce the risk of dementia and help your loved one gain independence and confidence. Simple exercises such as stretching or walking will make a difference in their lives. If they are unable to move around on their own, light weights or stress balls are great to gain arm and hand strength.
  12. Visit them often- If you can, try to go visit them without another objective in mind. If you have children or grandchildren of your own, bring them with you to do activities with your loved one. The presence of family and children brings light into their home and helps alleviate loneliness.
  13. Ask the doctor about your loved one’s needs- If your parent has Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or other medical conditions, it is important that you talk with their doctor about how to care for them. It is important that you know what to expect so you can better prepare yourself and your loved one.
  14. Know that it’s okay to get frustrated sometimes- Accept that sometimes your parent will not always do what you think they should. They are doing the best they can with their limited independence. Know what is important and what is not and learn to let things go and take a break when necessary.
  15. Maintain a sense of humor- It’s simple: laughter is the best medicine. You will feel frustrated and your loved one will feel defeated. Combat these disappointments and laugh when things don’t exactly go how you think they should have.
  16. Plan simple, fun activities- It’s important to get your loved one out of the house and around people every once in a while. Something as simple as going to lunch, going to the grocery store, or sitting in the park can boost their mood and brain health.
  17. Consider professional help- Never be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of yourself, your family, work and take care of your elderly loved one. Nursing homes are not always the answer. Hiring an experienced caregiver to assist with in-home private care is a great option for many people. They can assist with errands, medication reminders, light housework, and hygiene assistance.
  18. Take time to vent- Find relief in talking to someone about how you’re feeling. It is important that you talk about your struggles and frustrations so you do not grow bitter toward your loved one.
  19. Take care of yourself- Caregiving is hard. You will occasionally feel overwhelmed, but you have to realize that you can not do everything all the time. Your loved one needs you, but alone time to relax is crucial for your sanity. Always remember that you are loved and everything you do does not go unnoticed.
  20. Love them through it- Remember that it’s hard for your loved one to not be able to do even the simplest of tasks on their own. Show them extra love and compassion when they are frustrated. Reassure them that they are not a burden on you and that you love being there for them. They have loved and cared for you, now it is your turn to return the favor.