How to care for aging parents when you’re an only child

| Caregiver Support

Affectionate man hugging his senior parents while kissing his mother's head.


How to care for aging parents when you’re an only child

For millions of adult children, caregiving for their aging parents is an inevitable rite of passage. But only-child caregivers face a different challenge. Without a family team with whom to share the duties and stresses, only children often feel that they have to do it all. This may lead to feelings of isolation and burnout.

If you’re an only-child caregiver, here are some tips on how to manage your responsibilities, and help you cope.

Plan early

Talking to your parents about aging may be uncomfortable. But addressing needs and making arrangements beforehand makes it easier to deal with hard situations when they do arise.

Start by talking about living arrangements. Where do your parents want to live as they age? Do they want to stay in their home?  If so, will they need professional caregivers? How about professionals to help them maintain their home?

Another option that seniors can consider is an independent living community. This could allow them to enjoy a lifestyle change and will eliminate home maintenance responsibilities.

Advance planning of how to support their living arrangements can relieve a lot of stress when the time comes to make a change.

Also make sure you have other important information, like:

  • Doctors, dentists, insurance
  • Computer passwords
  • Bank information
  • Lawyers and accountants
  • Friends and neighbours.

Build your team

To help you figure out who you need on your team, first decide on your own role. Will you be the primary hands-on caregiver? Will you direct a team of caregivers? Or will your role be somewhere in between?

To help you determine your role, consider factors like your capabilities, finances, living arrangements, and your family’s needs.

Determining your own role can help you decide what kind of support you and your parents will need. Can your spouse, friends, or extended family offer help?

You might also want to introduce yourself to your parents’ attorney, accountant, doctor and banker early on. The sooner you build your team, the easier it will be to manage affairs down the road.

Get emotional support

Don’t try to go it alone. Many caregivers try to do everything themselves and get sick. No one can afford that, especially if you’re an only child.

Here are some tips on where you can get help:

  • Ask doctors and other caregivers for advice and resources.
  • If you belong to a faith, make up your own supportive family of other caregivers and members of your faith.
  • Check to see if your municipality offers caregiver support groups.
  • Join online forums for other only-child caregivers. There are lots of you out there!

As an only child, you will be responsible for meeting your parents’ needs as they age. Advance planning can help reduce the stress. And remember, even if you don’t have siblings to help you, you’re not alone.


We understand that caring for older loved ones can be a lot of work and you may need support.

Bayshore Home Health offers a wide range of home care services to help Canadians live independently for as long as possible. Contact us at 1-877-289-3997 for details.