Maybe it started after a recent surgery. Or an accident at home. Or a concerned phone call from a neighbor or family friend. Maybe your mom or dad told you they no longer feel safe driving their car to the grocery store or pharmacy. While the moment is different for everyone, there comes a time when you simply know that you need to assume the role of caregiver to an aging parent.

Nearly one in five American adults is a family caregiver, according to AARP. And yet, the normalcy of family caregiving is little comfort amidst this humbling, even heartbreaking, reversal of roles when the child becomes the caretaker. This responsibility comes with an opportunity, however, to lovingly invest in one of your most important relationships. 

Regardless of how you found yourself in this situation, this article will help you understand the key components of caregiving and develop a plan to provide for your loved one’s safety, care, and independence. 

Talk to Your Parent 

Once you’ve decided to assume the role of family caregiver, begin by having a conversation with your aging parent(s). This is a big change for both of you, and it is important to “clear the air” as you get started.

During this conversation, you may choose to do any, or all, of the following:

  • Declare your intentions to be a caregiver
  • Explain why this is now necessary
  • Discuss what will change—and what won’t
  • Ask your parent to share their feelings and concerns

You will no doubt have additional things to discuss, so let the conversation go where it needs to. But in general, we encourage you to lead with empathy. As big a change as this is for you, know that it will be every bit as difficult for your loved one. You both will do well to be kind to yourselves and to each other. 

Start with Safety

Ensuring your loved one’s safety is job number one for any family caregiver. This includes taking steps to safeguard their health, physical well-being, and environmental surroundings. 

Monitor Their Health:

First, you need to monitor any chronic medical conditions and administer corresponding medications on time. Your loved one’s doctor can guide you in the proper procedures and let you know what’s best for your loved one. Take notes on the schedule and any corresponding doses and keep this information visible. The side of a refrigerator is an excellent choice.

If your loved one is still healthy enough to spend time on their own, you can sign up for a remote health monitoring service, like the one offered by Connected Caregiver. This service uses safe and wirelessly connected health monitoring devices to relay vital statistics like blood oxygen level or blood pressure straight to your smartphone, no matter where you are. 

Monitor Their Safety:

The CDC reports that each year, 3 million elderly Americans receive emergency care for falls. Invest in a wearable safety monitor and monitoring service so that if this terrible moment arrives, help is close at hand. 

Leading safety monitoring devices and services, like Connected Caregiver, automatically detect falls and provide emergency help with the push of a button; Connected Caregiver can also directly alert you, the caregiver, via text, email, or phone call. It might just be the most important thing you can do to protect your aging parent. 

Modify Their Environment:

Odds are your parent’s home will require modifications to improve their mobility and ability to age in place. These range from simple and cheap to complex and expensive, and include:

  • Clearing the floor of small items (footstools, potted plants, clutter, etc.)
  • Confining or rehoming pets
  • Modifying exterior doors to “zero step” entries
  • Installing handrails in bathtubs and showers
  • Installing chair lifts in stairways

For more information and ideas, click to read our article, “Ensuring the Physical Health and Safety of a Senior Loved One.”

Account for Activities of Daily Living

Next, you must evaluate what your elderly parent is able to do for themself and what they require help with. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are the core daily functions your loved one must perform to remain independent—or that the caregiver must perform regularly if they cannot. These include:

  • Self-feeding
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Mobility around the house
  • Bathing, showering
  • Brushing teeth
  • Taking medication

Once this first set is accounted for, there is a second tier of regular activities once handled by your elderly parent that you, the caregiver, will need to plan for:

  • Cooking and meal-prep
  • Cleaning and household chores
  • Grocery shopping and errands
  • Managing finances and bills
  • Communication with doctors and other caregivers
  • Administering medication

Many of these activities can be performed with your loved one present and can even provide some welcome activity. But as a family caregiver, you must prioritize and problem-solve each of these needs to keep your loved one comfortable.  

Organize Their Finances

Unfortunately, caring for your elderly parents can be quite expensive. While we all hope that our parents have sufficiently saved for their care in retirement, it is important to keep tabs on their finances and avoid unwelcome surprises. We recommend that you:

  • Locate and secure financial documents
  • Request monthly statements from your loved one’s accounts
  • Monitor accounts for potential elder fraud
  • Meet with their financial planner (if applicable) 
  • Determine the monthly cost of care and budget accordingly

Depending on your loved one’s financial situation, you may apply for Medicaid support. While benefits vary by state, you can learn more about available assistance programs at

Build Your Support System

Even on the hardest days, you do not have to care-give alone. Get to know the people who are in a position to support you and find out how they can help. They include:

  • Healthcare providers: doctors, nurses, and in-home caregiving support
  • Family and friends: siblings, neighbors, and friends who can help with regular tasks
  • Advocates and social workers: contact your local Area Agency on Aging for details
  • Bosses or coworkers: people who can provide you the flexibility you need to be present

Care for Yourself, Too!

Being a family caregiver can take a lot out of you. While your intentions are loving, you have limits on your energy and emotional bandwidth. To provide great care to your aging parent, you need to take care of yourself, too. Don’t forget to:

  • Make time for personal responsibilities
  • Invest in your emotional and spiritual health
  • Spend time with your friends and family
  • Exercise or meditate regularly
  • Eat regular, healthy meals
  • Read books or watch favorite shows/movies
  • Enjoy hobbies
  • Take naps

It’s not selfish to invest in yourself during this season of caregiving. By making space to be your best, you empower yourself to provide the best care possible to your loved one. 

There is no set roadmap for being a family caregiver. It is up to you, your parent(s), and their doctors to determine the right courses of action during this season of life. We hope, however, this article will help you identify and address the most common areas of concern and responsibility. With the right plans and support systems in place, you can ensure the best and most rewarding caregiving relationship with your parent(s) as possible.