Dealing with an Aging Parent


  • Don’t live in denial: In order for you to appropriately deal with your parent's changing situation, you need to accept that something is wrong. These problems need to be confronted and treated. If it is simply the aging process causing changes, you still need to overcome the tendency to deny a problem exists and realize your intervention may be the only thing that will create improvement. 

  • Don’t try to do it all alone: Taking on complete responsibility for the care of your aging parents is a course headed for disaster. The emotional, physical, and financial burden of such an undertaking is enormous. Learn who is available for support as you deal with the changes in your parent. Are there family members you can work with? Does your parent's community have resources to provide various types of help? 

  • Don’t give up balance: You and your family have certain needs that can be threatened if you focus too greatly on your parent's aging and on helping him or her. You need to make sure that your attention to your parent's needs does not force you to fail in attending to your family’s needs. 


  • Take a good look at the situation, and decide what is most important: Before you can make any decisions about how to deal with your parent's aging process, you must understand all the associated problems. Learn about the various implications of your parent's physical and mental states. When you fully understand what you can expect as a part of your parent's aging, you will be better prepared to make decisions regarding your role and in handling the emotional experience.

  • Keep your emotions under control: You can expect that the period of time watching your parent age and approach death will be highly emotional. If not kept under control, your emotions can affect you in significant ways. Your family might suffer from your inability to cope with stress, anger, grief, or depression. You may find your health is affected by your intense feelings. Many negative emotions can be overcome through various activities: completing a project you enjoy, exercising, talking about your feelings with others, and thinking about positive things.

  • Let your parent go, and move on with your own life: You will experience great pain while you recognize the need for distancing yourself. Keep in mind that you have a life you need to attend to and there are other people who need your attention and care. Many people feel guilty or concerned that they did not do as much as they should or could have. Some of the ways you can deal with these feelings are to talk about them, write in a journal, and think about the positive things in your relationship with your parent and in your life. As you do this, you will be better able to deal with the loss you have experienced.

Caring for Your Aging Parents by Donna Cohen and Carl Eisdorfer