Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Julie-Allyson Ieron's new book, The Overwhelmed Woman’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents, (Moody, 2008).

When grown children who have received their parents’ care start caring for their parents, the stress of changing roles can either damage their relationships or draw them closer together.

If you’re a caregiver for your aging parents, you’re likely facing many stressful demands. Here’s how you can give your parents the best care while still taking care of yourself:

Help your parents face the truth about their limitations. Be honest with yourself and your parents about what activities they can no longer do well – from driving and cooking, to walking and paying bills. Initiate conversations with your parents about their needs, and be willing to do what you can to help meet those needs. Ask God to empower you to serve them in calmness, comfort, and compassion. Locate Bible passages that strengthen your resolved and encourage you. Talk to friends and other caregivers, and support each other in prayer. Keep in mind that, as you honor your parents, you’re ultimately honoring God.

Foster your parents’ independence. Help your parents make the most of the time they have left, living to the fullest despite their ages. Pray for God to give you His perspective on your parents’ value, potential, and continued callings. Talk with your parents about goals they may yet want to accomplish; then see how you can help move them toward those goals. Encourage your parents to consider ministries that fit their gifts and abilities. Research programs for seniors in your community.

Encourage your parents to take good care of their health. Realize that the fact that your parents are getting older doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll face disease or disability. Help them prevent illness and injuries or improve their health, in ways such as: exercising, eating a balanced diet, maintaining contacts with family and friends, praying often, and thinking positively. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, focus on what they can do. Help them find opportunities to serve others so they can continue to contribute. Consider volunteering to do a service project with your parents. Challenge your parents to maintain the very best health they can, spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Talk with them about what legacy they want to leave for your family.

Make the most of rehab. If one of your parents must enter a rehabilitation facility for a while, choose the place carefully and prayerfully. Visit often to let staff members know that you’re watching how they treat your parent and you’re involved in his or her care. Partner with the staff to help your parent get the most out of therapy. Try your best to be encouraging, motivating, and positive.

Cope well with grumpiness. Aging can cause your parents to go through a range of negative emotions that can make them difficult to get along with well. Understand their grief over the independence they’ve lost. Encourage them that simply experiencing signs of aging doesn’t have to lead down a slippery slope of hopelessness or despair. Help them think positively even in the face of adversity. Help them feel loved by giving them focused attention regularly. Help them feel trustworthy by giving them as many opportunities as possible to make their own decisions about their care. Help them feel valuable by dwelling on their best qualities. Instead of trying to change their behavior (which you can’t), focus on what you can do – changing your own behavior toward them. Ask God to help you see the humor in difficult situations to relieve stress, and to respond in love rather than anger whenever your parents frustrate you. Ask trusted friends to pray for you and your parents.