Many of us who are moving into retirement years find that an elder parent or other family member may require significant attention. The old and frail elderly encounter difficulties managing their lives, yet insist on maintaining independence and self-sufficiency.

Although everyone is constantly getting older, it often comes as a surprise when we realize that our parents need help. The National Council on Aging reports, "People do not anticipate caring for a parent. They state, 'We will cross that bridge when we get to it.' But when adult children suddenly have to cross that bridge they look frantically for answers and options".

The first step in helping our parents maintain maximum independence, yet provide a sense of safety, is to begin an honest and open communication. Keep the elder as involved as possible and learn their needs and desires. You can then be an affective advocate.

To assist them in managing for themselves, you most take the time to learn about their health, doctors, medications, spiritual needs, home maintenance, and much more. The time spent in this preparation will reward you handsomely later.

You do not need to reinvent the wheel when beginning this process. Geriatric Care Managers are the experts who navigate the elders and their families through these numerous challenges. A nationally certified care manager's fees will be $75 to $150 per hour and often save families both money and wasted time and effort. You can start your own planning by talking with the elder in your life today.

You can find a professional geriatric care manager in your city at the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers site --

There are also some excellent software tools available that may enable you to care for your parent without hiring a professional. LifeLedger is one of the better systems available. More info at

Our Family Caregiving Guide can help you find specific services in your community.