A Checklist To Caring For Aging Parents

As the baby boomer generation continues making the shift from older adults to bona fide seniors and retirees, studies abound around the topics of adults’ expectations about the aging process, as well as what it means to “age well.”

Researchers have found that an adult’s expectation regarding aging (ERA) notably impacts overall health and mortality rates.

Not surprisingly, the more aging adults understand the direct correlation between lifestyle choices, activity level, and positive thinking regarding better overall outcomes, the more likely they are to take advantage of senior living services and resources available to them.

One recent study states:

The present study suggests that older adults who expected fewer age-related health issues (i.e., had more positive ERA) engaged in higher levels of physical activity.  In turn, they viewed themselves as having higher levels of physical function. Therefore, older adults with more positive ERA are more likely to experience better physical health.

Information from these studies provides a resource bank for aging parents’ adult children (often referred to as The Sandwich Generation). It includes essential information about how you can support your parent’s aging process, keeping them as healthy, safe, and active/independent as possible for the rest of their lives without feeling overwhelmed.

Preparing With An Aging Parents Checklist

The more you can do to prepare your parents to age well and provide caregiving support, the healthier and more active/engaged your parents are likely to be – and this has sustainable, long-term health and care benefits.

This caring for aging parents checklist guides you as you work through the transition into the later stages of your parent’s “golden years.”

Do they have a senior care plan?

Waiting until you need to implement the plan is a recipe for emotional chaos and stress. There isn’t time to create a sustainable senior plan when you’re in crisis mode. The key is to discuss the long term care plans early – revising them as needed along the way.

Senior care plans address:

  • Creating a safer and more accessible home to minimize injuries and promote living independently.
  • Your parents’ financial status. If they’ve saved for “a rainy day,” it’s time to support their awareness that senior care is part of that rainy day plan. This also includes if they currently receive social security or whether they would be eligible.
  • Essential legal documents (wills, trusts, durable power of attorney, advanced medical directives, etc.).
  • Finding caregiving they prefer (in-home care – via family and/or professionals vs. assisted living, vs. memory care, vs. nursing home, etc.) and any long term care insurance that’s in place.
  • Respite care plans if a child or other family members will be doing most of the caregiving for parents at home.

Conversations around those topics form a solid foundation for a comprehensive senior care plan and segue to additional checklist items that need to be addressed for aging parents.

We recommend collectively reading, 10 Signs Your Parents Need Assistance to Safely Live at Home, and forwarding it to family members who can’t be present. These objective signs frame succinct guidelines for noticing “red flags.” Some red flags may already be present; if not, the points inform you and your parents about what to pay attention to as time moves on.

Are financial planning pieces in place?

Try to gain a clear understanding of their current and future financial picture. Financial Planning for Senior Parents is an excellent place to begin.

Make sure daily nutritional needs are met

If it seems that bolstering their meals via senior support services such as Meals-on-Wheels or having grocery shopping and meal prep done for them, act on it. Nutrition is the key to healthy aging. Having healthy, easy-heat meals and snacks on hand makes a tremendous difference in general energy levels and health.

Implementing services like these, which can be started just a couple of times per month and then stepped-up as needed, is a smart way to baby-step resistant parents into increasing in-home services as they need it down the road.

Keep routine exercise/activity a priority

Like nutrition, routine exercise and activity is another foundation for healthy aging. Caring for aging parents includes encouraging them to continue walking, swimming, taking senior-specific exercise classes, and so on to keep up their strength, stamina, and balance.

The combination of eating healthy foods and exercising is proven to prevent the onset of cognitive decline and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

If parents aren’t as mobile as they once were, make sure they have the modifications necessary to remain active, including:

  • Mobility aids
  • Exercise bands/home exercise equipment
  • Ideas for exercising from a wheelchair or chair

The internet and local senior centers have loads of resources for keeping seniors moving and engaged.

Schedule access to/from favorite activities and social gatherings

A significant component in your aging parent’s checklist is assessing transportation abilities and changes.

At some point, most seniors need to modify their driving (only during daylight hours and good weather) or have to turn their keys in altogether. This is a critical point in their aging process because social engagement and community are essential to emotional and mental wellbeing.

Based on a joint effort by The Hartford and MIT Age Lab, AARP created this free, online Webinar We Need to Talk, on how to assess and discuss senior driving ability.

Like meal services, there is a range of senior transportation services available that can be set-up occasionally. Over time, they can be used more regularly, ensuring seniors keep their medical, healthcare, and self-care appointments, attend religious services, get together with friends, run errands, etc.

Medication monitoring

Sometimes, negative symptoms or states-of-mind seniors experience are due to their medications (or forgetting to take their medication). Make sure their medications are monitored/evaluated for contraindications or conflicts – and use medication reminders if you suspect they fail to take them altogether.

Meet with home care agencies and/or toured assisted living communities

Your caring for aging parents checklist should include scheduling assessments with licensed home care agencies and/or touring senior care communities in your area. This proactively identifies your/their top picks, providing immediate resources you trust if/when the time comes that your parents need more help than you can provide.

Planning With Caring For Aging Parents Checklist

When the time comes that your loved one(s) need more assistance to live safely, comfortably, and age well, it helps to have an aging parents checklist ready as you support and navigate through their golden years together.

This aging parents checklist serves as a helpful guide to steer you down the right path.

Learn more about caring for aging parents from these resources:
Easy Home Modifications Can Enable Seniors To Age In Place Comfortably

The Cost Of In-Home Care For Elderly Family Members

How To Deal With Aging Parents Who Are In Denial