Staying Patient with Elderly Parents

What makes you lose patience? Is it sitting in traffic, when you’ve got ten places to be? Being asked the same questions again and again? Or, getting interrupted for the third time when you’re trying to finish something important? If you have elderly parents living nearby, these scenarios can sound uncomfortably familiar. Having aging parents who rely on you can be challenging, no matter how able-bodied they are. The normal aging process on its own causes memory lapses and other declines that can have the most loving and caring children taking deep breaths. Aside from biting your tongue and heading to your compassionate place (which are both good tactics), there are proactive steps you can take to try and prevent some of this frustration for both yourself and your parent.

  • First, gather all mom’s important information into a protected file – key phone numbers, her social security number, medications and dosing information, doctors’ and caretakers’ contact info, housing information. Staying on top of this and having it all accessible to you will eliminate a lot of unnecessary back and forth.
  • Next, make her home or apartment safer and more user-friendly; this will help mom feel more self-reliant and spare you some extra calls too. Lighting that’s ample and accessible is key; perhaps use motion-sensor lights for frequent activities like midnight trips to the bathroom. Make multiple sets of keys and put them in several easy but secure locations (and keep a few sets for yourself). Swap out any technical equipment for more senior-friendly devices, like a streamlined TV remote control designed for the elderly. Consider stovetop systems like CookStop that help mom cook more safely and prevent dangerous kitchen accidents.
  • Make multiple copies of a monthly calendar for mom to post in prominent places, with helpful reminders about times for events like garbage pick-up; car servicing; medication dispension; bill paying, or cleaning people arriving.
  • If you don’t have siblings to share the load, take an afternoon and look online for free eldercare organizations you might try out for support services – a local senior center, for example, or the Council on Aging. You also might check out community sites like Help Around Town that match odd jobs and household task requests with screened and reliable job seekers. 
  • Finally – and this may sound obvious – prioritize getting the sleep you need. We think it bears repeating, as staying rested is such a critical element to staying patient. It’s also something we tend to push too far down the priority list. Don’t let yourself wriggle out of this one! If you need to talk to your doctor, do it – but make sure you take the appropriate steps to stay rested.