How to support someone elderly who needs regular care


A lot of adults maintain a great degree of independence well into their elderly years. Many of them are busy helping others and contributing to workplaces, communities and families. At some point, however, older people will need some form of help. People in their 80s and 90s usually go from being independent to needing assistance in their daily lives. When older people start needing help, family members often step in.

According to, family members are the leading source of long-term care services and support for older individuals. Providing support is usually straightforward and may involve basic help such as performing household chores, shopping and providing transportation. In other situations, caregivers may have to take on more responsibility due to the older person’s health issues affecting their ability to care for themselves independently.

Certain situations that may commonly prove to be challenging for caregivers include:

  • Advanced age that diminishes physical strength and leads to cognitive challenges and general frailty
  • Alzheimer’s and related conditions
  • Sudden disability or health emergencies such as a stroke, heart attack or fall
  • Chronic illnesses that may hinder daily function, such as neurological conditions, pulmonary disease and heart failure
  • Frequent hospitalization and complications resulting from hospitalization 

Things to consider when providing support 

The well-being of older family members involves looking after their physical, emotional and mental well-being. When creating a care plan for older people, it is essential to ensure that all their basic needs are taken care of. Activities of daily living (ADLs) are essential to support the well-being and dignity of the elderly. Basic ADLs typically include the following:

  • Mobility (e.g., getting into and out of bed and chairs, moving while performing daily activities)
  • Self-feeding
  • Toilet hygiene (e.g., the ability to get to the toilet, getting up from the toilet, self-cleaning)
  • Personal hygiene (e.g., grooming activities like shaving and brushing hair)
  • Showering
  • Dressing

Many older individuals may develop health and mobility issues that make it challenging for them to independently take care of these activities. This is where it will be necessary to provide the appropriate care. There are many resources that discuss the equipment needed and the type of professional help older individuals may need to continue performing these daily tasks independently.

Instrumental activities for daily living

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are not essential activities, but they are needed to function independently. Looking at where and how an older individual needs support doing these activities can be a helpful first step so that you can provide them with the support they need. In caregiving, IADLs are typically the activities listed below:

  • Running errands
  • Shopping for necessities
  • Cleaning the home
  • Cooking meals
  • Managing finances
  • Taking medications 

To support the well-being of older individuals, it is important to take care of their IADLs consistently and effectively. When family members can no longer take care of all the needs of their older family members, professional help is available. You can turn to community services, professional assistance and even technological devices designed to help seniors.

Helping older individuals when they are resisting

Family members may notice that aging family members are having problems with driving, cleaning, paying bills or remembering things. They may seem withdrawn or paranoid. Many of them may not welcome help from adult children as they may view it as interference in their own lives. They may even be in denial that they need any help at all. Adult children may have safety concerns for their aging parents, but their attempts to get involved may not go well. Such situations are not easy to deal with, and they may bring up challenging emotions for everyone involved. These moments can be difficult, but there are many ways to deal with resistance from older family members, as discussed in the following sections.

Signs that an older individual needs help

Adult children of aging parents may know that their parents need assistance, but these assumptions are not always right. It is important to first try to analyze the situation and gather information to ensure that your concerns are justified. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Problems with safety and basic life tasks
  • Problems with thinking and memory
  • Other people in their life noticing a decline in abilities

Take the time to gather information systematically to get a clear picture of concerns and problems. Spend some more time around them to get a better idea about how they are dealing with daily life activities. This information will also be needed by medical professionals as well as caregivers. It will also help you understand what safety measures and support will be required in the future.

Learn more about what support they need

A lot of older individuals may be in denial or refuse help. Family members may try to approach them and initiate discussions to help the older individual understand that steps must be taken to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, this may often result in conflict and frustration. In such situations, it may be best to take a slightly different approach. Help them feel heard and listen actively to their concerns. This is the best way to learn about what they are feeling and thinking. Avoid convincing, correcting and arguing with them. Learn more about things that matter most to them. This will not only help build a stronger relationship but will also soften resistance to receiving help.

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Establish boundaries

Call a family meeting with siblings, the aging parent and other members of the family to discuss boundaries and rules about providing care. Discussing the concerns of an aging parent can often encourage them to accept help. Family members will also need to accept that they may have to take on more duties as their health continues to decline. Although some tasks surrounding caregiving may feel like overstepping, they are necessary to ensure the safety and health of your loved one. Be open and honest during your conversations and explain all the available options before you decide on what sounds feasible and acceptable.  

Make it appealing for them to accept help 

Many older individuals consider any help offered as pity. One way to get around this is by making the assistance you provide appealing. Suggest alternatives such as using senior transportation services for appointments instead of driving them. This can make them feel more independent while still ensuring their safety. Your goal should be to support them so that they can live independently for as long as possible. 

Older individuals should be confident in their ability to navigate their daily life while focusing on safety. Independent living is high on their list of priorities, and they may not want to feel like they are fully dependent on others. Supporting their desire for some independence will help build solid relationships. They will also be more likely to ask for help with tasks that they are having a problem with.  

Seniors are also more likely to accept help from a nurse if a family member is a medical professional. If you are a certified nursing assistant (CNA) interested in elderly care, there are professional programs at institutions like Elmhurst University designed for individuals exploring the CNA to RN pathway. Becoming an RN will not only provide you the ability to care for the elderly in your life but will also provide you opportunities for a fulfilling career.   

Assessment and intervention 

When trying to come up with a care plan for an elderly individual, it can be helpful to know what to aim for. One of the most important things to start with is a thorough medical evaluation. A lot of worrying symptoms and signs of aging in a senior may be caused by a medical issue. An evaluation can provide answers to questions about symptoms, medications and a detailed healthcare plan. Medical professionals will also check for cognitive impairment if you are worried about thinking skills or memory. The first step should be to immediately address any safety concerns and to help the older individual with daily tasks they may be struggling with.  

Professionals trained in geriatric care and social workers can help assess an older individual’s care and housing needs. They can also help you create a plan and come up with ideas on how to manage safety concerns. It is also advisable to support lifestyle changes that may help an older individual maintain good physical and mental health. 

Creating an action plan 

Once you have spent some time observing your aging family member, listening to their concerns and learning more about the help they may need, the next step is to create an action plan. The plan will be different for each family because of the unique needs of the aging individual, the resources available and the family situation. This is one of the reasons why it is important to create a customized and flexible plan for your family. 

The first step in the process is to review all the information you have about the situation. Refer back to notes about the safety issues you may have observed, tasks that your older family member may be struggling with and concerns about thinking skills. You may also want to take the individual’s preferences and priorities into account. The next step will then be to brainstorm and weigh all your options. Make a list of the most urgent issues that need to be addressed and start with those. 

While this process may seem overwhelming, it is advisable to just focus on the most important things at first. If other family members are available, it is best to divide responsibilities. Plan specific action steps for each concern. You may have to research legal issues and health problems, consult experts or learn more about long-term care homes. Other tasks may include making appointments, reviewing medications, hiring professional caregivers or touring facilities. Don’t forget to consult the aging person throughout the process and ask for their opinions. Involving them in decision-making will soften their resistance.

Putting the care plan in place 

Once you have created a detailed plan on how to provide care, the next step is to put the plan into action. Consider your own capacity to handle responsibility and hold open, honest conversations with everyone involved to make the best of the situation. You may have to reassess the situation and adjust your approach, as situations may change rapidly.

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There may be a lot of roadblocks and challenges along the way. You may have to come up with a completely new plan if the one you put into action does not work out as expected. There may be a steep learning curve for everyone involved, but be persistent and continue to try different approaches. If you feel stuck, don’t hesitate to approach support groups and professionals for ideas and help.    

Making living arrangements

One of the most important considerations when providing care to seniors is taking care of their living arrangements. Deciding whether they will continue to live alone, with family or in a professional, supportive location is part of the process. Involving the individual in the decision-making process and learning more about their preferences is also important.

Below are some of the common options available to older individuals:

  • Aging at home  Most seniors prefer to continue living independently in their own homes as long as possible. Several adjustments may have to be made to the home, and the support of caregivers may be needed at times. 
  • Living with family  This option is suitable for seniors who need basic healthcare support and assistance. Living with family also provides them with the care and companionship of family members.
  • Independent communities  These are communities geared towards independent, active seniors, where individuals can rent or purchase a condo or mobile home. Some of these communities include amenities such as laundry services, social activities, group meals, transportation and housekeeping. Independent communities do not provide medical support.
  • Assisted living communities  These communities are suitable for seniors that are still a little independent but need help with certain activities such as transportation, medication, showering and meals. Communities also provide housekeeping, laundry and social activities. 
  • Nursing homes  Nursing homes are suitable for older individuals who need professional caregiving and medical surveillance along with a living environment. Professional medical staff is always available on hand. One of the biggest benefits of living in a nursing home is easy access to qualified, professional nurses. 

Taking care of finances

As a caregiver, there will be many financial choices and changes that you will have to think about when providing support to elderly family members. Seniors may be eligible to receive financial support through government programs for living expenses. It is important to make sure that you research and apply for any programs they are eligible for. Older individuals will also need help managing their retirement funds and finances. Family members may have to account for the time needed to play an active role in assisting older individuals with their finances so that they are financially secure. 

Caregivers may be eligible for tax relief when they claim an elderly family member as a dependent. Certain medical expenses may also be deductible. Older individuals will also need help when it is time to file taxes. 

Taking care of legal documents 

If you have noticed signs of problems with judgment, memory or thinking skills, it is important to consider an older person’s mental capacity and when an individual might be legally incompetent. This is important for several reasons. If the individual has created a power of attorney for legal or healthcare reasons, it can provide you or another person in your family the ability to act if they are incapacitated. 

If there are any signs that an aging individual has lost the mental capacity to understand and measure the risks of a situation, it may be legally and ethically permissible for you to take action. Even though certain older individuals may deny your concerns, refuse help or disregard safety issues, it does not always mean that they have lost mental capacity. However, it is always a good idea to get a clearer understanding of this area if the situation changes in the future. This knowledge will also help you decide how to approach your older family member for discussions about making a change.   

Supportive resources

To stay on top of things, you may need to turn to support groups and resources. There are many government funded as well as independent organizations and groups created to help seniors. When you educate yourself, you are helping older family members receive the best assistance and support available. One such resource is, the US government’s official benefits website that provides information on all the assistance and benefit programs covering income, disability and health.

Providing the best possible care to seniors 

Taking care of older family members and parents means ensuring they are happy, healthy and safe. Providing them the care they need brings us peace of mind. However, providing this care should not have to be a responsibility or burden that you must bear alone. Support is available in many forms. There are a lot of resources available, as well as professional help. The support seniors need may change from day to day. Finding the right mix of resources to ensure their well-being may be challenging, but if you take advantage of the resources available, it can help reduce your stress significantly.


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