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Looking after elderly parents

Your Life
Tuesday 15 May 2018
Caring for family isn’t always easy. We've explored the phenomenon of the sandwich generation – those retired or on the cusp of retirement who have both parents and children in need of support. Usually aged between 50 and 60, though often older too, the sandwich generation typically take on many family responsibilities.

Instead of welcoming retirement and enjoying the freedom to take things easy, these people are caught between the needs of their children or grandchildren on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other. If this sounds like you, here are some ways to support your parents without forgetting your own needs.

Safety first

Whether your parents are in their own home or live with you, you may need to adapt the environment to make sure it’s safe for them. These are some things to consider.

Home improvements

  • Fit panic alarms or communication systems throughout the home
  • Cupboards and shelves can be lowered to avoid over-reaching
  • Place a stool by the kitchen counter to avoid long periods of standing
  • A large screen phone can make communication easier
  • Use brighter lights to help with eyesight
  • Replace flooring with nonslip alternatives, especially in the bathroom. Rugs can be a tripping hazard
  • Install mobility aids, such as grab bars in the bathroom and a handrail or stair lift on the stairs

Health watch

Keep an eye out for a change of ability in any of the following tasks. It might mean your parent needs more support – such as a live-in carer or alternative housing arrangement. It could also suggest underlying health issues, in which case you speak to a doctor.
  • Walking and getting from room to room
  • Dressing
  • Using the bathroom
  • Preparing food and feeding themselves
  • Arranging their finances
  • Managing medication
  • Using a telephone
  • Recognising you
  • Remembering important information
  • Finding their way around
Significant weight loss, poor appetite, decreased interest or involvement in life activities are also signs that it’s time to pay a visit to the doctor.

Is it legal?

If you decide to have your parent move in with you, make sure everything you do is legal. For instance, it may affect the amount of council tax that you need to pay (especially if you’re used to living alone). Check with your local council if you’re unsure.

Getting Help


Apply for a carer’s assessment

The NHS recommends people who are caring for an elderly relative start by contacting their local council to apply for a carer’s assessment. This is designed to assess how much support you’ll need from the council, and how this caring role is likely to impact on the other areas of your life.

Be prepared to give an honest assessment of what your parents’ needs are and how much support you’re required to give. It’s important not to underestimate what’s required. The council will decide whether to help with things such as equipment, home adaptations and housework; they may also be able to provide emotional support. More information is available here.

Apply for a care and support needs assessment

Your local council can also give you a care and support needs assessment. It looks specifically at the needs of your relative, rather than yours as a carer. But it can lead to very similar outcomes. Learn more here


There are many charities and organisations that can help with elderly parents. Find out what’s available where you live. If they have any specific geriatric ailments, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, see what support you can get from those charities too. Never be afraid to ask. You might also be able to take advantage of local caring networks – look on the Carers Trust Network.

Financial support

Sometimes what’s needed is more money. It might be for short-term respite care, a long-term carer or modifying a home so that it better suits the needs of aging parents.

Downsizing is one option, but can be very stressful. What’s more, the expense can also outweigh the positives, costing on average £29,000 including Stamp Duty, removals and legal fees.*

For homeowners aged 55 to 95, equity release may be an option. Not only might it raise a tax-free sum but it’s something both elderly parents and those tasked with caring for them can consider.

Could equity release help you?

Find out more about how equity release works and see whether it could help you.

Learn more

If you do consider equity release, it's important to remember that it will reduce the value of your estate. It may also affect your entitlement to means-tested benefits. The most popular type of equity release, a lifetime mortgage, is a loan secured against your home. 

If you’re in this situation the most important thing to think about, is yourself. Look after your own health and wellbeing. It's important. Give yourself some time off and remember that no one can do everything. You are human after all, not superhuman.

* Saga Magazine - The Cost of Downsizing (03 October 2017)
Page last updated: Monday 13 July 2020