Healthy Talk

Caring for Your Elderly Parents

Peter Kovacek
Peter Kovacek,
PT, MSA, DPT
Your mom and dad used to take care of you. Now suddenly, they are the ones who need help. We all want our parents to make their own decisions and control their own living environments; however, sometimes the struggle for independence can compromise health and safety. When this happens, it is important to know how to address your parent’s needs.

First, you must recognize that an elderly parent may stubbornly refuse any help you offer. They may even deny they have a problem. Do not take this personally, instead, try to understand their feelings. Perhaps your parent worries that their independence is being threatened. The worst thing you can do when encouraging your parent to seek help or change their lifestyle is to make them feel powerless. Instead, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Allow them to remain in control as much as possible. Your mission should be keeping them healthy and safe, not micromanaging their life. Give options, not ultimatums.

Express your own feelings. By sharing your emotions and fears with your parent, you can approach necessary lifestyle changes as a team, not adversaries.

Give your parents the tools that will help them maintain independence. For instance, a physical therapist can assess their strength and balance. Research has shown that improved strength and balance reduce the risk of falls and injury. Leg weakness is a strong predictor of nursing home admissions; why not learn a safe exercise program from the leading experts in exercise and functional retraining?

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