How to Figure Out What Aging Parents Need

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 119 January 5, 2022, On this episode caregiving expert,  Pamela D Wilson answers the question, how to figure out what aging parents need. Eight areas common to the needs of the elderly are identified, plus recommendations for managing through uncertainty and helping aging parents help themselves.

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What Do Aging Parents Need?

Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation, with host Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.

Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, speaker, consultant, and guardian of The Caring Generation. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, navigating the healthcare system, and everything in between. It’s no surprise that needing care or becoming a caregiver changes everything.

The Caring Generation is here to guide you along the journey to let you know that you’re not alone. You are in exactly the right place to learn about caregiving programs and resources to help you and your loved ones take care of yourselves and plan for what’s ahead. Share this program and the past episodes featuring helpful information and expert interviews with family, friends, and co-workers.

We’re here to talk about how to figure out what aging parents need. I’ll begin by offering a list of eight topics you may want to consider as you care for yourself as you age and others in your care. Caregivers of young children or elderly parents experience a continuous learning curve. Isn’t that what life is? It’s an opportunity to learn every day.

Gaining confidence in the role of being a caregiver or in any role of life results from accepting unknowns and learning how to manage them. After we talk about a checklist of topics related to aging, we’ll discuss the difference between how to figure out what aging parents need compared to actions of helping mom and dad take care of themselves.

But, first, note the critical difference in this discussion—we are talking about how to help mom and dad take care of themselves. The idea of this discussion is not to have a family member become the sole caregiver responsible for everything—which happens more often than not in most care situations.

As you may know, one of the first issues that caregivers come up against is time constraints. Trading time between things caregivers want to do and caring for aging parents begins on day one and continues through the death of the care receiver.

8 Considerations for Caring for Aging Parents

1- How to figure out what aging parents need

My online webinar course for how to help aging parents stay in their homes has eight modules that I’ll use for today’s checklist. Number one deals with how to figure out what aging parents need. Sections include managing the emotional ups and downs of being a caregiver, navigating family relationships, and understanding why elderly parents resist help from you or others.

Family caregiving is complicated. Not all families get along. When you take steps early in care relationships to define the relationship and set boundaries through discussions, you can manage time pressures that balance trade-offs that make caring for aging parents more stressful.

2 – Signs a parent’s health may be failing

Number two identifies signs parents need care related to health declines and how to manage within the healthcare system. It’s a day-to-day list of health, physical, mental, and emotional concerns for figuring out what aging parents need specific to actions. After reviewing this information, you can discuss and gauge mom or dad’s interest in participation.

3 – Activities of daily living

The next one links health to activities of daily living. The idea of living independently is what most older adults want. Two examples of activities that affect how mom or dad feel are good nutrition and taking medications. I will share examples of these later in the program to further our discussion about how to figure out what aging parents need.

4 – Age-related concerns for safety

Four on the list is safety, an age-related concern for health conditions like heart disease, poor vision and hearing, memory loss, and medication side effects. These are health conditions that you may not realize result in serious falls and injuries for the elderly.

Not everyone can physically do everything they did when they were 20 or 40 in their 70’s or 80’s. It’s not that you can’t do the same things. You may choose to do them differently for one reason or another.

Technology support for aging

Here’s a simple example of how technology makes a task that might be difficult when you’re 80 very simple. How many of you vacuum rugs or floors? Some vacuums can be pretty heavy and difficult to drag up and down different levels in a house. Also, vacuuming under the bed may be challenging if you’re not physically limber.

On the other hand, doing all this when you’re 20 is a breeze—when you’re 80, not as much. The solution? The I-Roomba vacuum. It’s like having Rosey the Robot, the Maid on the Jetson’s cartoon series vacuum for you.

Rosey the Robot Jetsons

Rosey the Robot from The Jetsons Cartoon from  Hanna-Barbera Productions

But here’s the thing. If you’re 80, you might not get out of the house so much to the store to look at vacuums.

You may not watch television to see commercials about this little wonder of a device. Wow, you may think the product is expensive at $300 or $600 for different models. But not really.

Measuring risks

You might be shocked to know that the cost of hip replacement surgery before Medicare picks up the tab is $80,000. All because you got down on the floor to clean under the bed and lost your balance getting back up.

Add to the $80,000 for the surgery. The cost of 3 weeks in rehab to regain your strength—hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare expenses. All from a simple, little mistake.

Not to mention the physical damage to your body and the emotional cost to your mind. Investing in a Roomba vacuum had you known about it—could have prevented things you never imagined could have happened.

Age is like that. Many advances in health, the use of technology, and seeking advice from an expert have costs associated that can save you time, money, and mistakes when figuring out what aging parents need.

Resistance to change

This list of eight is the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to understand. Without prior experience, it isn’t easy to know what to do. Figuring out aging is also about acknowledging resistance to change.

It answers why older adults mistrust family and the healthcare system. Understanding that resentment exists about getting old, physically and mentally, and having memory problems is important to understand older adults.

Being embarrassed about things they could have done but didn’t result in regret. There also may be a time when pride has to be set aside for the practicalities of life.

Complexities of aging

How to figure out what aging parents need relates increasingly to a lack of understanding of the consequences of not figuring out the complexities of aging and being willing to make the changes that make sense even though thinking about the change is hard.

All of the issues and decisions faced are complicated. Yet, managing through aging is a linear experience of years that requires good problem-solving skills.

5 – Routines for Health and Well-Being

Number five on the aging checklist is the benefit of establishing routines for health and well-being. While routines may sound tedious, boring, simple actions like eating oatmeal several times a week can lower cholesterol. As I talk about in my Healthcare By the Numbers video series on my YouTube channel, understanding your basic numbers can make a difference in how well you feel every day.

6 – Creating a care plan

The how to figure out what aging parents need checklist wouldn’t be complete without item number 6, identifying and creating a plan to care for loved ones with memory loss. Research confirms that early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s may be present up to twenty years before a diagnosis.

Unfortunately, about 50 percent of people over age 85 have undiagnosed memory concerns. When you don’t realize you have memory loss, caring for yourself or admitting you need help from others may be impossible.

Creating a plan for loved ones with memory loss includes many issues that everyone should consider—financial planning and paying for care costs. Also, legal planning—choosing someone to be an agent under a medical or financial power of attorney, creating a living will, a will, or a trust.

7 – Researching available services

how to figure out what aging parents needNumber seven is care planning for who, how, and where care will be provided. This includes understanding community-based services like in-home support, home health, physical therapy, palliative, and hospice care.

Plus, the care provided in senior living communities. Investigating and being aware of all of the options allows you to create a plan for making good decisions when the life and care needs of a loved one change.


8 – Navigating care across service providers

How to figure out what aging parents need becomes more complicated when navigating care across service providers. This aspect of care can turn into a full-time job, and it’s number eight on my list.

Imagine coordinating or supervising all of the people who care for a loved one. You might already be doing this.

If you manage people at work, you know what this is like. The benefit of workplace supervision is that you do have some influence on people who report to you through their work evaluations.

On the other hand, you have to depend on your people skills and common interests or goals to carry relationships forward and make progress outside of a work situation. This is a great transition point for how to figure out what aging parents need in the framework of helping you take care of yourself.

What Factors Influence Health?

Health, good or bad, affects aging. What factors influence health?

Access to medical care, environment, genetics, and lifestyle choices. Lifestyle choices are one of the more important. As a caregiver, to begin with how to figure out what aging parents need, it’s essential to first understand the basics of the groundwork that we discussed in the eight points we reviewed.

There is much more to know about all of these. If you’re interested, check out the details of my online webinar course, Stay at Home, on my membership page. (insert the Kajabi link).

Perspectives Across Aging

Let’s look at how to figure out what aging parents need from the view of an older person and a perspective that may be helpful. When you were children, your parents did their best to care for you.

Let’s say that your parents were in their thirties when you were born. If you are in your thirties today, having children, building a career, going to college, you are probably juggling a lot of work-life issues.

But, on the other hand, if you are a caregiver in your fifties or sixties or beyond, you have more life years of experience. Yet, regardless of your age, your parents may still look at you as their children who lack knowledge, understanding, or compassion of the issues they face.

Part of the difference is that, if younger, you may have a mindset of goal setting and checking off accomplishments. Aging parents may look at life differently, especially if they have health issues limiting day-to-day abilities. While change may inspire and excite you, aging parents may view change as a threat to maintaining the status quo.

Managing Through Uncertainty

When you are young and in good health, you are physically and mentally strong. Once health issues begin in middle or later years, confidence in coping or managing through uncertainty can decline.

Aging parents don’t want usually advice from their children. Especially if parents look back at life with regret about things they should have done.

Not everyone experiences life on an even playing field. Life events, family situations, culture, education, income, and environment have a significant effect on the way that individuals respond to life changes.

Helping Aging Parents Help Themselves

When aging parents need care, think of helping your parents take care of themselves versus you taking over doing tasks for them. Actions that make life easier for you but take away your parents’ independence make them more dependent on you. In addition to potentially taking over tasks, your approach to problem-solving may probably be different than your parents.

Life Stages and Decision-Making

Let me use a life stage and a lifestyle example to illustrate this thought. Your doctor tells you to eat healthy homemade foods that consist of protein, low fat, and low carbs because you are 50 lbs overweight, smoke cigarettes, and have heart disease.

You are married, have three children, and work two jobs. Remnants of Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and other fast food restaurant bags fill the backseat of your car. Why not treat yourself with a quick pit stop for a meal between your day and evening jobs. You deserve it.

In addition, your husband or wife works full-time but is home in the evening with the kids. Fortunately, both sets of your parents are retired and care for your children before and after school.

Based on this description of your hectic life, how likely is it that you or your spouse have time to meal plan, grocery shop, prepare and eat healthy foods? If I had to guess, the probability of establishing healthy eating habits is pretty low on the priority list.

So what happens to your health when the doctor gives you advice, and you don’t follow through? Twenty years into the future, you’re in your doctor’s office. The doctor explains that you can’t breathe because you smoked cigarettes for 40 years. Your heart, lungs, and body are simply giving out, and you have about two months left to live.

Looking Ahead and Looking Back

This situation may be similar to the position your aging parents find themselves in today. They did all they could to take care of their children—you. But they didn’t make their health a priority because they didn’t know any better.

They had to work. They were too busy. There was no time to stop smoking, lose weight, or eat healthily. They had bills to pay and wanted to buy their kids the latest gadgets.

Unfortunately, it may be too late to give your parents advice today about preventative health actions. The best you can do is support them in managing the consequences of their choices. But it’s not too late for you if you learn from your parents’ experiences.

More on how to figure out what aging parents need after this break. The Caring Generation is not limited by time zone or location—caregivers worldwide can listen any time of day. This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and author on the Caring Generation. Stay with me. I’ll be right back.


18:12:65 This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving speaker, expert, and author on The Caring Generation program for caregivers and aging adults. Whether you are twenty or 100 years old, you’re in exactly the right place to learn about caregiver support programs, health, well-being, and other resources to help you and your loved ones plan for what’s ahead. If you’re not sure how to talk about caregiving issues in your family, let me start the conversation for you.

Resources for Caregivers

what do aging parents needAdd the podcast app for The Caring Generation on the cellphones of your loved ones and encourage them to listen. You can also visit my website,, where you will find my caregiving library, Caring for Aging parents blog, online webinar courses, videos, my book The Caregiving Trap, and pages for The Caring Generation where you can listen and read the show transcripts, plus how to schedule a 1:1 eldercare consultation with me by telephone or video call.

The Effects of Care Refusals

Earlier in the program, we talked about eight areas you can investigate to figure out what aging parents need. Two areas that can cause a lot of problems are medications and nutrition.

The Effects of Care Refusals on an episode of The Caring Generation podcast features an interview with Dr. Thomas R Radomski from the University of Pittsburgh. He shares research about medication management and shared decision-making that will help in your efforts for how to figure out what aging parents need with regard to medication.

Why Self-Care for the Elderly Can Be Complicated

Let’s use nutrition as an example of circumstances that complicate the ability of elderly parents to take care of themselves. As I talk about this, you can substitute any issue for nutrition like memory loss, refusing to take medications, refusing to follow the recommendations from doctors. Choose any of the issues you might currently be experiencing in caring for an aging parent, spouse, grandparent, or child.

Needing a caregiver is usually the result of a health concern that begins to chip away at the tasks a parent can do for him or herself. In addition to tasks, health problems result in more interactions with the healthcare system like doctor appointments, tests, and treatments.

Overall, health worsens over time, one illness can cause another. Then elderly parents become depressed and do less.

Even if you are in good health, getting old, as my grandmother said, is not for sissies. There are many considerations.

Emergency Care

planning for end of life care decisionsHow to figure out what aging parents need includes identifying the gaps between what health providers recommend and what parents are willing to do. Identifying this gap can be used in all areas of life.

There is a problem to be solved. You can do x, y, or z. How important is solving the problem? What are you willing to do? What might be the additional complications of doing x, y, or z?

Let’s talk nutrition. Mom or dad go to the hospital emergency room because they feel weak. Your parent was diagnosed with sepsis, which is an infection resulting from pneumonia, a urinary tract, or digestive system issues.

In addition to sepsis, the doctor tells you that your parent is malnutritioned and needs to eat better. A nutritionist visits your mom at the hospital to make nutritional recommendations—you think—great, easy solution, eat better—problem solved.

The doctor orders a home healthcare provider to visit your mom after she returns home from the hospital to follow up on the recommendations. You call mom three days later to ask about the home health visits. Mom tells you she canceled the nurse.

She didn’t need anyone to come over to the house to watch her eat. You are frustrated because clearly, there is a gap between your mom saying she can eat and eating enough to improve the malnutrition.

Misunderstanding or Irrational Thinking?

You go to see your mom. It’s as if she is shocked that the doctors told her she was malnutritioned. The hospital records confirmed she had lost 20 lbs. in the past year. Her body looks like skin and bones.

How to figure out what aging parents need when misunderstandings or irrational thinking exists about what a parent thinks they do versus what they do. In this case, eat a nutritionally sound, balanced diet.

While all the facts—weight loss, bloodwork, physical weakness, muscle loss, exhaustion—confirm malnutrition. Mom or dad says they eat when they’re hungry, which isn’t too often.

The other gap is a parent saying they don’t need any help from outsiders, but mom or dad is unable or refusing to take care of themselves. So as their child or possibly a spouse, what do you do? Jump in to rescue the day?

How to Figure Out What Aging Parents Need

While jumping in to assist is usually the first tendency. A better option for successfully figuring out what aging parents need is to confirm mom or dad’s understanding of the severity of any situation.

Over the years, I had clients with vision or hearing loss tell me that healthcare providers shoved papers in front of them and spoke so quickly they mentally shut down and didn’t listen. Or instructions were provided that they couldn’t read or understand.

So first, you want to understand if or how the issue was explained to your parents by the doctor, in what way, and to what degree. Was there any point in the conversations with the healthcare provider where your parent asked questions or confirmed that they understood the information provided?

If a list of recommendations was provided, was there a discussion of if you do x, y, or z you can expect this. If you don’t follow through, this might happen—and it’s not good.

Logic Versus Emotion

In trying to explain a health diagnosis and the need for a change in behavior—better nutrition in this case—this is the required level of interaction necessary between your parent and healthcare providers. Full disclosure—thorough explanations, confirmation of understanding, and an interest and a commitment to change. Otherwise, aging parents will say the doctor spoke too fast, provided too much information, and wasn’t easy to understand.

Nowhere in this conversation do you hear your parent saying, I need to know this information to take better care of myself. How to figure out what aging parents need can be puzzling when their actions contradict words.

This is usually when adult children jump in to save the day. But do children really save the day or cause more unintended problems through helpful actions?

Without truly understanding why a parent has concerns or refuses to follow a doctor’s recommendations, it may not be possible to help a parent help themselves. Sure, sometimes parents can be stubborn and refuse, so they feel like they’re in control.

Do I Have To?

But what else isn’t bein said? Are the recommendations in contrast to what a parent wants? Does a parent truly understand the time and effort required to resolve the health condition?

Is mom or dad willing to stop making excuses for common reasons related to poor nutrition? For example, “I’m not hungry. I have difficulty eating because of arthritis in my hands, my dentures fit poorly, and I can’t chew. Or, preparing a meal takes too much effort. I don’t care about food anyway. “

For many elderly, food becomes a necessity instead of a pleasure, “I eat because I have to.” As long as a lack of interest in food is not due to a mental health condition, motivated elderly can take care of themselves and manage through nutrition and other health conditions.

Many actions can be taken, like scheduling multiple appointments with a doctor to monitor ongoing conditions. Parents and their caregivers can gain a better understanding of the consistent effort necessary to see an improvement.

Many family members and loved ones can have unrealistic expectations of the effort and time required to improve conditions. With age, ignored or unknown conditions take much longer to heal or resolve.

Collaboration and Planning is a Solution

True collaboration between caregivers, the person who needs care, healthcare, and community service providers is necessary for how to figure out what aging parents need. Doctors can be equally frustrated as family caregivers when encouraging patients, parents to be proactive about their health.

In a perfect world, there would be no time constraints. Time for educating patients and parents would be unlimited. In addition, determining the underpinnings of why patients and parents refuse care would be easy.

Complications of fear, mistrust, resentment about aging, misunderstandings, irrational thinking, and the ability to comprehend and reason through problem-solving are one part of how to figure out what aging parents need.

Figuring out Care Needs is an Ongoing Process

In caring for aging parents, there is no one size fits all solution. However, there are commonalities across care needed by the elderly. First, take a deep dive into understanding the eight areas all families experience that I provided during this show.

Then devote more time to investigate what aging parents need. In addition, encouraging parents to participate in their care can reduce family caregivers’ life trade-offs. The more caregivers do for aging parents that parents can do themselves, the greater the time contributions required by sons, daughters, or spouses over the months, years, and, believe it or not, decades of caregiving.

Caregiving activities to manage health, financial and legal projects can be complex. Consulting individuals who can cut the learning curve of caregivers and parents are valuable to saving time, money and reducing the likelihood of making a mistake. These people include caregiving experts like myself, financial planning individuals, eldercare, probate attorneys.

Support Exists

If you are doing your best to manage a care situation and want reassurance that you’re taking all the right actions, contact me through my website to schedule a 1:1 care consultation by telephone or video call.

If you work for a company that doesn’t yet offer support programs for working caregivers, ask why not. Share my website with your human resources manager. I design and deliver unique educational programs for corporations and groups that desire to support caregivers.

Thank you for joining me on The Caring Generation – the only program of its kind connecting caregivers and aging adults worldwide to talk about caregiving, well-being, health, and everything in between. Invite your family members and friends, co-workers, and everyone you know to listen each week.

I’m Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, eldercare consultant, and speaker. I look forward to being with you again soon. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and be good until we are here together again.

Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D Wilson’s The Caring Generation.

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©2021 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved




About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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