Helping Aging Parents Live Independently

Jeremy Hollander

Jul 15 2018

As your parents enter old age, they start needing more help. Cognitive abilities start to decline, and many physical movements may become more challenging or painful. They may need medication reminders or assistance in paying bills on time. Unfortunately, spending time helping aging parents isn’t an option for all adult children due to location and other responsibilities.

Meanwhile, living alone can be scary for your parent. They may be hesitant to do their regular daily activities if they know there is no one nearby to help in an emergency or crisis. Or they might get confused about their medications and end up harming themselves.

In these situations, a medical alert system can help give you the peace of mind that you need. Simply knowing that your parents will get the necessary attention in times of medical urgency can be comforting. But helping aging parents requires additional steps so they can continue living on their own. In this article, we’ll share some tips for helping aging parents continue to live on their own.

Install a medical alert system

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, people who lay incapacitated for 12 hours are 5 times more likely to die compared to those who get immediate help. Because the elderly are prone to debilitating falls, an easy solution for emergency situations is a medical alert system. Getting medical attention right away can prevent serious injury or even save your parent’s life.

With a press of a button, medical alert bracelets or pendants provide lightning fast contact with a 24/7 operator station. These operators can dispatch an ambulance immediately and can also alert a loved one or caregiver of the situation. Most of the best medical alert systems support two-way, hands-free communication. This means that your parent can communicate with the operator station with just their voice. Be sure to check out the medical alert system reviews available online to help aging parents find the best one for them.

For a small monthly fee, a medical alert system does more than send emergency help. Many systems, such as MobileHelp and LifeFone, have a mobile app that lets you see your parent’s location. This feature can ensure you get notified whenever your parent leaves a specified area. Then you can determine if they are lost and need help, even if they don’t realize they are in a precarious situation.

Helping Aging Parents Live Independently women eating bread

Ensure frequent visits

As your parents age, they may become more socially isolated due to their physical limitations. If you live nearby, helping your aging parent by visiting regularly is an important way to stay connected and keep their spirits up.

Many adult children build their lives far away from their parents. In this case, it’s important to ensure your parent has a social support system. According to WHO, mental health and well-being are just as important in older age as at any other time of life. Many older people are less socially active than they used to be, meaning their interactions with other people are more limited. The best way to help them stay happy and healthy is to make sure they have visitors.

A visitor can be a companion who comes a few times a week to take your parent out shopping or to spend some time together chatting. It could also be a home health aide who comes to assist with small tasks in the home or even a church member or neighbor who comes by regularly for tea. This can help an elderly parent feel less isolated and more lively.

Help manage expenses

Helping aging parents with their social health and independence might come with some added expenses. It’s important to review your parent’s monthly budget to understand what they can afford and to determine if they can handle the extra expenses. It’s also a good time to get an understanding of your parent’s cognitive ability to manage their finances. If you and your parent decide together that a paid aide will visit a few times a week, for example, ask: Will my parent remember to pay the aide? If so, how will my parent get to the bank to withdraw cash? Your parent may need extra help from you to manage this or to pay for this service.

One good way to help you and your parent is to create a budget. This way, you and your parent can anticipate baseline costs every month and also budget for added expenses that may come about. These could include increased medication prices, purchase of unexpected medical supplies like a wheelchair, or more frequent paid caregiver visits. A budget will also help your parent save in the unfortunate event that they need to move to a facility with more full-time supervised care.

Helping Aging Parents Live Independently man with medication

Medication management

To protect your parent’s health and avoid additional medical complications, get to know your parent’s pharmacist. According to the book Caring For Your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide, poor medication management is the biggest reason why older adults have to give up living independently.

Your parent likely has an array of doctors in different offices that treat various ailments. Therefore, be sure your parent gets all their prescriptions filled at the pharmacy. This way, the pharmacists there have access to all of the medications your parent is prescribed. It’s also recommended you touch base with the pharmacist at your parent’s pharmacy. Ask them to ensure your parent isn’t given a mix of medications that badly interact with each other.

In addition, use a medical alert system with medication reminders. These are reminders to your parent to take their medication timely so they never miss a dosage.

Make their home safe

Preparing a parent’s home to make it as safe and comfortable as possible can help them stay independent longer. Put yourself in your parent’s shoes, and examine their living space from their perspective. For example, would more lighting make activities safer in the kitchen? Should you move the armchair into the room where your parent spends the most time in? Are there hazards like throw rugs or electrical cords in a major walkway? Also, consider installing rails on steps, hallways, and in bathrooms to prevent falls.


As parents age, their social and safety needs have to be addressed in a new way. They need frequent, dependable social interactions. They may require some assistance with expenses and medication management. Most importantly, they will need a safe and comfortable living situation. Helping aging parents to stay in their own homes supports their continued independence. Setting up a medical alert system is another way to limit the overwhelming feelings your parent might experience as they age. A medical alert system goes a long way towards giving you and your parent reassurance that help is always easily and quickly available.  

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