Caring for an aging family member at home

Adults with age-induced physical and mental frailties require help.

Providing full time care for a parent or aging loved-one within your home is an option. If you are considering this undertaking or are currently providing elder care in your home, it’s not my intention to discourage you. I want you to be mindful.

As caregivers, we are providing a safe, supportive environment while assisting with everyday tasks such as bathing, toileting, dressing, and meals.

Specialized skills are required; there are costs not tied to dollars.


Duty, love, and economics

There are several reasons why adult children would bring an aging parent into their homes for care.

The choice may stem from a sense of duty and love. Or, it may be an economic decision; in-home care by family members is the least costly.

Many cultures honor the aging by providing a caring, supportive environment within a multigenerational home. Personalized care from family members is widely seen as the most loving; it can impart a sense of personal privacy.

Caregiving is not one-way. Elders have experienced multiple generations in their lifetime. They can bring wisdom, insights, and divergent viewpoints to your home. They often exhibit more openness than those of us in midlife. They enjoy young children.

I know idyllic relationships are not always possible; this is particularly true if an elder has dementia.


What are the risks?

Providing care is physically and mentally demanding. Do you know how to safely transfer someone to and from a bed and to the bathroom? Do you know how to change bedsheets when a person is confined to bed? Prevent bed sores? Clean and dress a wound? Take a person’s blood pressure? Do you know techniques for dealing with behavioral issues induced by dementia?

Just as important: Do you know how to recognize your own limits and how to care for yourself?



Without formal training, you have elected to care for a vulnerable, frail adult. You will be doing the work of trained nurses and nursing assistants. Therefore, educate yourself.

First: Know what you don’t know. Whenever you run up against unfamiliar situations and lack the required knowledge, seek authoritative help. Ask questions. Use every available resource to learn proper techniques.

Now more than ever, hospitals are aware that they must educate families about what’s involved in caring for and assisting patients recovering from surgery and hospital stays. The reason: With the restructuring of health care, hospitals are penalized when too many Medicare patients are readmitted due to complications.

Staff members at nursing homes and rehab centers can be crucial sources of information.

Ask questions of social workers, visiting nurses, and physical/occupational therapists. Pay close attention to their instructions; take notes. Online videos can help.

Make sure you understand the instructions for medications; keep written records.


Caring for yourself

Families that choose to care for their elders are deserving of praise.

The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates there are 44 million “unpaid” caregivers in the U.S. – individuals who are providing care for which they receive no monetary compensation. These days, it’s common for caregivers to be working millennials with children.

While providing care for another, it’s common to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Be cognizant of this.

A rotating team of family caregivers helps alleviate burnout. Take regular weekly breaks and scheduled vacations. Having time to yourself allows you to recharge your batteries. If other family members are unable to pitch in, look to outside resources such as friends, neighbors, or professionals. To care for others, you must care for yourself – both mentally and physically.



Caring for an aging person within your home is one of many elder care options. Other choices include professional caregivers who assist with daily living while the elder stays in their own home, assisted living facilities, and adult family homes.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home elder care. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to