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Aging Parents: Helping Them Live Independently

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Helping your parent live independently

As our parents are getting older they sometimes don’t want to accept the fact that they are aging. Understandably, they want to maintain their independence and often balk at safety precautions that are for “old people,” not for them.

The truth is that you may recognize the signs of your parents aging long before they do. While some elderly parents do need to move to an assisted living or independent living faculty, there is often an extended period where your parent can live safely by themselves with the proper equipment and safety precautions.

Helping your parent live independently can be a kind, compassionate way to honor their wishes. To support your parent’s wish to live independently there are a number of things you can do to help them maintain their quality of life, and increase their safety and your peace of mind.

Home security

Your parent’s home needs to be equipped with a home alarm system—preferably one with a live support system. This system should also monitor their home for fire and carbon monoxide. Make sure they have deadbolts on their exterior doors and all the windows lock. Put their front outdoor light on a timer to deter criminals.

Safety equipment

Install safety equipment like grab rails in the bathroom, non-slip mats and a raised toilet seat. Make sure any scooters, wheelchairs, walkers or canes are in good shape. A programmable thermostat will help your parent stay comfortable through the night without worrying about getting up in the dark. If your parent takes a number of medications, a pill organizer or dispenser will insure that they take the correct pills. Provide several laminated lists of important phone numbers that your parent can store near their telephones or program them on their phone.

Protect identity

Identity thefts are notorious for preying on the elderly through mailings and phone calls. While it might be useful to caution your parent against these tactics, they may be offended by your suggestion that they could be duped. Consider an identity protection service to make sure they are protected.

Medical Alert System

A medical alert system will enable your parent to get medical attention even if a telephone is out of reach. Systems include either a bracelet or pendant that your parent can use to call for help and the appropriate emergency personnel will be dispatched—firemen, police or medics. In addition, your parents can request that you be notified as an emergency contact.

Help around the house

For older adults maintaining a living space, grocery shopping, laundry, putting their trash on the curb—just normal life stuff—can be difficult or even hazardous. Helping your parent do these types of things can dramatically improve their quality of life, but they may be resistant to your help. Try some of these ideas to prevent them feeling embarrassed or offended:

  • Drop by on Monday evenings to watch a favorite TV program together and do their laundry while you are there.
  • When you schedule your regular home maintenance, schedule theirs as well.
  • Call from the grocery store and tell them you are going to be stopping by and ask if you can pick up anything for them.
  • Always come by the night before trash pickup and carry their trash to the curb when you are leaving.
  • When you cook, package up individual sized portions to drop in their freezer.

It isn’t easy getting old—and it definitely isn’t easy losing your independence. Your parents will appreciate you respecting and supporting their wishes as long as possible.

Guest post by Becky W.



  1. Mary Ambrosino says

    That “help around the house” tip sounds wonderful. What a great idea.


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