12 Most Sanity Saving Tips for Elderly Caregiving

12 Most Sanity Saving Tips for Elderly Caregiving

What happens when the parents you’ve relied on for years, who where there for you when you needed help or advice raising your own children, start relying on you for help?  As slowly as this transition happens, it’s still unnerving when you notice them slowing down and getting sick as they age. The tables have turned, the roles are reversed, and you have now become their caretakers.  Welcome to the world of the “sandwich” generation.

Balancing the needs of kids and aging parents proved to be one of the most challenging jobs I’ve held. It required some very creative scheduling, and understanding from my kids, who luckily were self-sufficient. As the only child of an elderly parent and a mother of three, the challenges of caretaking my Mom, after my Dad passed away 2 years ago made me appreciate the difficulties of trying to be in two places at the same time.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have parents living close by or with them, caretaking may be only a few degrees easier.  But for the long distance caretaker – Long Island to Brooklyn, it poses a new set of challenges, as the sign heading east on the Belt Parkway out of Brooklyn states: “Fuhgeddaboudit!”  Here are some tips for coping, dealing and retaining your sanity:

1. Avoid Rush Hour Travel

If Mom or Dad live far, try to plan your trip to avoid traffic at all costs.  It just adds to your stress.

2. Invest in a Daily Pill Organizer

When they insist upon taking their own medication, but really can’t because of macular degeneration, dementia, or any other medical condition, buy a pill organizer and tell them you’ll take the worry out of incorrect dosing by doing it for them.

3. Buy them a Medical Alert System

Any challenge to their independence could be met with suspicion. When you urge them to obtain a medical alert system, tell them they’ll be doing it so that you can sleep at night, since you’re not with them.

4. Let Them Continue to Recreate

When they want to do chores by themselves, like cook, or take a walk, let them! Just make sure a neighbor, aide, or you are there to oversee them.  I watched my Mom cut an onion, holding it in her hand and cutting slices of it with a knife into a frying pan it, in horror. But she just chuckled, ”I’ve been doing this for years” and shooed me away.

5. Take over Bill Paying and Check Cashing

When they receive bills and important documents and are frustrated because they can’t write checks or understand what to do, take over that task.  Go to the bank for them. They will be grateful.


Mother and Daughter

6. Arrive Early for Their Appointments

If you’re going to take your parent to a doctor’s appointment or restaurant, give them 30 minutes or more from the time you arrive until the time you get them into your car. They move slowly.

7. Grin and Bear it When they Beat you Down

Your parents will still criticize the way you look, your life, partner, kids or whatever, even as you help them with their daily life.  Ignore it. They love you no matter what and hopefully appreciate what you’re doing for them, even though it doesn’t seem that way.

8. Be patient

Enjoy their old stories again. And again. The stories will always be the same ones from 20, 30 or 40 years ago.  Just listen, nod and smile as if you’ve heard them the first time.

9. Be Very Discriminating when Hiring Help

Aging parents are suspicious of strangers, even though they are lonely.  So if you hire a caretaker, or home care attendant, thoroughly check references. If it’s through an agency, and the match is not working, ask for a replacement and keep after them until they get the right fit.  You don’t need your parent’s resentment added to their troubles.

10. Schedule their Medical Appointments

Don’t let them do it.  Schedule their doctor appointments when it’s convenient for you.  Give the doctor your contact information, so they can call you with test results, etc. Also, get to know their pharmacist really well.

11. Make them Feel Loved

When they get angry at their limitations and disabilities and bemoan their present state, as hard as it is, placate them and make them think of how worthy their lives are and what they mean to their loved ones.

12. Don’t Lose Yourself

The most important thing here, as you juggle your kids and parents, you risk forgetting to take care of yourself.  To maintain your sanity, keep up your healthy eating habits, exercise and socialize.  Take a staycation or vacation, just to re-energize. Burnout is very common.

Just remember, you are giving back, repaying your parents for raising you.  You know what? They did a pretty good job!

Featured image courtesy of Paolo Margari licensed via creative commons.

Lily Zajc


Lily Zajc, is a copywriter, public relations professional, and blogger on fitness and exercise for Three Village Patch, on Long Island, N.Y. She is a mother to 3 and only daughter to 1. Migrating from Brooklyn to Long Island as a young adult, she learned to re-invent herself from professional to parent, back to professional, along with being a long distance care-taker. She enjoys exercise, yoga, music, her poodles and exploring social media.

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Very good advice. As we're all getting older and experiencing this next stage of not only our lives but our parents, while still trying to raise our children - we all are beginning to understand first-hand what this is like. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips for such critical and stressful times.


Hi Lily! I really enjoyed your post. Nice to meet you and welcome to 12Most.

This is a solid reminder for all of us with aging parents. The roles are now reversed in so many complex ways. #9 caught my attention. It's so key to do background checks - we want to lead this effort with heart, it's only natural. Word of caution - It's wise to find a smart balance when deciding who to hire for your loved ones.


Hi Lily ~ You are obviously a very caring daughter; someday when you're older your kids will recall what you did for grandma and you'll be rewarded in kind. My folks are a young 80 & 75 respectively but your points apply just the same. Point #4 especially reminds me of my dad, he has a totally rebuilt chassis..knees replaced, hips replaced, heck even a metal ankle and he still continues to do the chores we ask him to leave for us! All my best, John

PegFitzpatrick moderator

Hello Lily,

Thanks for your first guest post on 12 Most! I am not at this point yet but I appreciate your thoughts on the subject and my prayers are with you for positivity.




@susanavello Your welcome, Susan. Glad I was able to add some insight. Hope these tips are helpful when the time comes.


@MeghanMBiro Thanks Meghan. I agree about finding a smart balance. It's also about matching the personalities, after you've determined trust.


@JohnFeskorn Thanks, John, for your kind words. Yes, I do believe that the more involved older parents are in daily activities, the better they feel about themselves. It reaffirms their independence.


@PegFitzpatrick You're welcome. Hope it helps anyone in this situation. Mind you, it took me years of trial and error to make it manageable.


@DixieLil Trust is everything. Absolutely. Personality match is what will make an enduring service match. Agreed.