Caring for Aging Parents


If we are fortunate, and our parents survive to 80 and beyond, we may find that aging has diminished physical and mental capabilities, and as a result our parents need our help, changing roles within the family, and requiring us to understand aging well enough to provide the best support. We are seldom well prepared for these new responsibilities.

Professional Perspective

Often, we do not meet the professionals until we are beginning to run into trouble. In this section, prominent professionals in disciplines that deal with the needs of aging persons talk about issues and where to go for help.

Dr. Michael Gordon is a prominent Geriatrician at Baycrest , a major health sciences facility in Toronto for the care of aging adults. He is co-author of "Parenting Your Parents".

In this clip, he describes the transition that occurs when children see their parents' declining physical or mental abilities mean they can no longer do competently the basic activities that they always did well before. The children begin to worry about their parents' well-being, they worry about the balance between safety and independence. Initially, children generally feel that they can keep an eye on their parents without intervening in their lives.
One of the most challenging moments is when the children recognize that their parents are no longer able to function competently alone, and children feel the need to impose their judgements on their parents’ lifestyle.
See the full series of commentaries by Dr. Michael Gordon

Sandra Loewen, a manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, describes home care and assisted living options for aging parents who are less able to cope alone in their houses. She outlines how to to aproach public and private home care service providers.

See the interviews with Sandra Loewen

Ask Dana

Dana Richardson, a life transition coach, addresses questions from the audience about helping aging parents.

Dana describes the transition from looking to one's parents for advice and guidance, to taking responsibility for their safety and well-being:

When you realize that your parents need your care, you need to let go of old family roles, and take on new responsibilities.
It is hard for the parent to give up being in charge and independent. Often, they are so accustomed to doing everything for themselves that they are very reluctant to ask others to help them. The aging process and the losses they experience may have a strong emotional impact.
A key to success in providing support is good communications to understand the difficult phase that they are going through, learn what they want, and to help them develop a lifestyle which matches their current abilities. In every instance, the parent should be given the opportunity to choose next steps, rather being told what to do. This may require patience and good listening skills, and it may help to involve outside parties to improve communications. A parent may feel more open in talking to a friend or a professional on subjects that are difficult to discuss with children.

See the full series of commentaries by Dana Richardson.