How to Help Your Parents or Grandparents

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. May 26, 2016

How to Help Your Parents or Grandparents

A senior’s ability to live independently is largely a function of four things:

  1. The senior’s state of mind
  2. The senior’s state of body
  3. The senior’s physical surroundings
  4. The senior’s support system

Simply put, a senior will be much happier in his or her own home if they feel safe, secure and loved. Much of “Safety-In-Place” focuses on the physical environment – providing advice about products and devices that can help increase one’s physical safety.

At some point in time, children (and grandchildren) of seniors will see their parents (and grandparents) change. Everyone is different so the changes may be subtle or abrupt. The changes may be neutral, pleasant or upsetting depending upon the parents’ attitude and yours. Ultimately, you may find yourself as part of your parent’s support system and in charge of their home safety.

There are numerous books and websites about aging and senior care. We provide a list of some of these resources in our blog "How To Find Qualified Home Care Providers." It helps to learn about the aging process from experts – especially gerontologists. Yet, every situation is unique and special and will require your ability to listen, love and respect.

Emily Post provided an article called “Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives” on her website (

EP: Visit, write, or call regularly. One-on-one visits are wonderful, but phone calls, cards, and letters will also boost spirits and communicate that you care. Try to be regular with calls and visits; if a visit must be delayed or canceled, call immediately and speak directly to your relative if you can. When you visit, let your relative set the pace. Every visit doesn't have to be a “talkathon”; sometimes just your presence is the greatest comfort.

EP: Encourage children in the family to stay in touch. Include your children in visits when you can. Prompt young children to create pictures or cards for their relatives. If you live too far away for visiting, older children and teens can write and call. Talk with your children about what is happening. Without clear and age-appropriate explanations, youngsters may become scared, imagine that the situation is worse than it really is, or feel that they are somehow at fault. Honesty is essential, and adults should never convey false optimism when a relative (of any age) is chronically or terminally ill.

EP: Treat an elderly person as an adult and an individual. He or she should be listened to and taken seriously, especially about decisions that affect his or her life and health. Since the natural consequences of aging can be unfamiliar and frightening for younger people, it's a good idea to do some research about the aging process and, if possible, talk with a gerontologist or a physician who specializes in care for the elderly.

EP: If your relative is in a health care facility, talk with the staff about his or her condition and progress. Ask what you can do to assist. Treat all staff members with respect and courtesy, but be observant. If you see or hear something troubling, raise the issue with senior staff or administrators as well as other family members.

EP: Keep family members informed. A family "phone tree" -- a plan by which people are assigned names to call -- is useful when news, such as a change in your relative's condition, needs to be communicated quickly.

You are not alone in struggling to navigate through the process of taking care of your grandparents or parents. With people living longer than ever before, senior safety and senior health is quickly becoming an important issue in society. Check out our other blogs for more tips and senior safety articles to best care for your loved ones. 

*Note: Fall prevention efforts can reduce the risk of falling. Caregivers and older homeowners can become knowledgeable about what needs to be done to make homes as fall-proof as possible. Check here often and search for product ideas that can make you safer in your home!

Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.


Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.