caring for an aging parent
Shown from left is Cindy Murray, aide at Penn High

Caring for an Aging Parent

At some point in our lives, we realize that our parents will eventually grow older and need help taking care of themselves. This is a fact of life. Nevertheless, caring for an aging family member can be daunting.

“As our parents age, we experience role reversal,” Kim Kranz, service line director of home care services for Penn Highlands Healthcare, said. “We are used to having them look after us, but over the years, we often become the caregiver.”

Learning how to best care for an aging parent takes time and it can be an emotional experience for both parties, Kranz said.

In order to continue living independently while ensuring their dignity as well as their physical and emotional well-being, Kranz said it’s important for seniors to be able to perform basic activities of daily living, knows as ADLs. These include:

  • Being able to feed, dress and bathe themselves;
  • Personal hygiene, including hair brushing, shaving and grooming;
  • Walking and transferring, which means moving the body from one position to another. For example, independently moving from bed to a wheelchair or standing up from a chair to a walker;
  • Toilet hygiene.

In addition to ADLs, there are IADLS, which are instrumental activities of daily living. These are the self-care tasks that call for more complex thinking. They include:

  • Running errands, shopping, cooking and meal preparation;
  • Cleaning and household maintenance;
  • Taking medications as prescribed;
  • Managing finances;
  • Communicating on the phone or other devices;
  • Managing transportation, either by driving or arranging to be transported.

If mobility or other health issues hinder your elderly parent’s ability to take care of these ADLs or IADLS, then it’s important to arrange help as appropriate, Kranz said. This could mean providing care yourself, arranging for assistive equipment, such as a power lifting chair, bed safety rail or stair lift, to help them complete daily tasks or seeking professional services. For example, Penn Highlands Community Nurses, or PHCN, offers home support services. Through home support services, also commonly known as private duty services, well-trained personal care aides can help elderly patients or individuals with a physical disability or chronic illness remain safe in their homes.

“Taking on the care of your elderly parent can be stressful,” Kranz said. “You may wish to keep them in their home for as long as possible but also find yourself worried about their safety, health and overall happiness. The goal of Penn Highlands Community Nurses home support services is to help you maintain your loved one’s quality of life in their home – keeping them safe and comfortable.”

Personal care aides with PHCN home support services can:

  • Help with personal grooming like bathing, getting dressed, mouth care or hair care;
  • Help with moving around safely and getting in and out of bed and shower;
  • Provide medication reminders;
  • Help a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia by grounding or orienting them;
  • Help with errands like grocery shopping;
  • Help prepare meals;
  • Help with household chores, such as vacuuming or doing laundry;
  • Provide companionship and friendship so your loved one is not alone.

Another option for seniors is the PHCN Adult Day Center, which provides respite care, therapeutic activities and exercise, medication administration, personal care and more to individuals who need daily care but wish to remain in their current living situation. The center, located at 625 Maurus St. in St. Marys, enables caregivers time to work outside of the home or to just take a break from the daily responsibilities of 24-hour caregiving. The center provides an activity-oriented program in a pleasant atmosphere Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding holidays. For more information or to visit the center, please call 814-781-8253.

PHCN serves patients in more than a dozen counties throughout Pennsylvania, caring for more than 1,200 individuals each day. Services provided by PHCN include nursing, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, nutritional therapy, aides, telehealth services, palliative care nursing, hospice nursing, chaplain, volunteers, bereavement, homemaker and personal care services.

To learn more about PHCN, visit or call 1-800-841-9397.