Tips For Caring For The Elderly At Home

Tips For Caring For The Elderly At Home

Breakthroughs in medicine and healthcare mean people worldwide are living longer than ever. As of 2020[1], the global population of people aged 60 or older outnumbered children under the age of 5.

As a result, the number of elderly people requiring day-to-day care is also rising and, in many cases, this is provided at home by family caregivers. An estimated 34.2 million[2] adults in the United States provide at-home care for relatives over the age of 50, and that number is set to rise.

Aging can bring challenges, and the most significant of these are often related to an increased need for healthcare. Millions of families around the world provide care for elderly loved ones at home, so how can you provide a safe and compassionate environment for at-home care?  Read on for our tips on how to safely care for your elderly relatives and loved ones at home.

Home Care vs. Nursing Home for the Elderly

In many cases, care homes are the most suitable option for the care of the elderly. Nursing homes[3] employ specially-trained staff and medical professionals who can provide round-the-clock care. If your loved one has advanced medical problems, this may be the safest way to ensure their health and comfort.

However, care homes are not for everyone. Like most people, elderly patients are often happiest in the comfort and familiar environment of their own homes. Providing care in the home also means your loved ones are surrounded by familiar faces and can enjoy the social benefits that come with this.

Advantages of Caring for The Elderly at Home

The social benefits of being around family members are especially important for elderly people. Social isolation (defined as a lack of social interaction) and loneliness (a state of sadness that stems from feeling socially isolated) can be a huge detriment to the health of seniors.

Social isolation and loneliness among seniors[4] are leading causes of psychological and physical health problems including anxiety, cognitive decline, heart disease, and more. Studies have found[5] that increased social interaction, on the other hand, can have significant health benefits and may even prevent the onset of serious illnesses, like dementia.

If your loved one is already experiencing cognitive decline, the familiar surroundings of their home can bring a lot of comfort. Staying at home can dementia patients retain important memories and help to preserve their sense of self. It can also help them to maintain their independence[6] and foster a sense of purpose and dignity.

Finally, caring for the elderly at home can be safer, especially for those with cognitive decline. Familiarity with their surroundings can bring a sense of security and may help to mitigate some of the more problematic behaviors associated with dementia[7], such as wandering.

Assess Your Capacity to Provide Care

Before deciding to care for an elderly relative at home, you need to assess your capacity to provide adequate care. This will depend heavily on the health status of your loved one and the complexity of their medical needs. In some cases, the healthcare requirements of older adults necessitate specialized care that must be provided by a medical professional. If this is the case, they may be safer in a nursing home where their needs can be met by staff with the appropriate medical training.

Even if you can meet your loved one’s medical needs, it is important to consider your own physical and emotional capacity for caregiving. Being a caregiver can be extremely rewarding, but it is also stressful and many family caregivers suffer from burnout. There are many ways to manage the stress of caregiving, but if you have a demanding job, health issues of your own, or other people to look after, caring for an elderly relative may not be a viable option.

Addressing Health Needs

Older adults often have complex health needs, and this is particularly true for those with serious medical conditions like dementia. People with dementia typically need daily assistance with self-care activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, using the bathroom, and getting in and out of bed. If they have other medical conditions, they will also need help managing their medication.

If you’re caring for someone with dementia or other serious medical conditions, you must have a deep understanding of their symptoms and requirements. Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms evolve and become more severe over time. When making a plan for your loved ones’ future care, you’ll need to consider how their medical requirements will change, and whether you are equipped to safely support them at home.

Prioritize Home Safety and Accessibility

When caring for elderly parents, friends, or family members at home, you must make home safety a number 1 priority. Often, this involves making modifications to your home that mitigate the risk of accidents and injuries and reduce the care needs[8] of your loved one.

Modifying the living space for accessibility

Having an accessible living space is key to maintaining a person’s independence[9] and sense of dignity. However, many elderly people struggle with mobility problems that make it harder to get around and increase their risk of falling. Therefore, you may need to modify living spaces to ensure your loved one can move around safely and comfortably.

Home adaptations for accessibility may include ramps, wider doorways, or handrails inside doorways. To reduce the risk of falls, living spaces should be kept tidy and free of clutter.

Installing safety equipment

Getting older often comes with a loss of mobility, which can make it harder for elderly people to move around the house safely. If your house has more than one level, it may be necessary to install a stairlift on the stairs. You may also need to modify your bathroom to include handrails, a walk-in bathtub, or a shower chair. Finally, alarms and intercom systems can allow elderly family members to communicate with you more easily, especially in the case of an emergency.

Promote Physical and Mental Activity

One major benefit of caring for elderly people at home is that you can use the opportunity to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical and mental activity can help to maintain and even improve your loved one’s physical and cognitive health, which is especially important for older adults with dementia.

Encouraging regular physical activities for the elderly

Physical activity is a cornerstone of good health and, among older adults, can help reduce the risk[10] of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. For dementia patients[11], there is evidence to suggest that exercise may improve cognition and ease other dementia symptoms such as disordered sleep.

The amount and type of physical activity an elderly person can do will depend heavily on their physical capabilities. Fitter seniors may enjoy walking, dancing, swimming, or other forms of light cardiovascular activity. Those with less mobility may benefit more from light exercise like yoga or gentle stretching.

Incorporating mental stimulation activities to support cognitive health

Mental stimulation is critical for cognitive health and may help to improve overall cognitive function[12] in older adults. Cognitive stimulation comes in many forms including reading, talking, listening to music, or doing puzzles[13]. Alzheimer's stores[14] offer a range of products specifically designed to engage and stimulate cognitive functions in individuals with dementia. Make sure to take the person’s personal preferences and interests into account when suggesting activities, as this will heavily influence their enjoyment of and engagement with the activity.

Emotional Support and Social Interaction

Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent among older adults[15] and can increase their risk of a variety of physical and psychological health problems. It is important to encourage social interaction between elderly relatives and others, as this can help to safeguard their long-term health.

Providing companionship

Companionship is one of the main benefits of caring for elderly people at home. Being close to friends and family members can help older adults feel more connected to their social circle and keep feelings of loneliness at bay. Being available for conversation or shared activities for people with dementia[16] can have a profound impact on their mental health and may help to prevent or alleviate anxiety and depression[17].

Addressing feelings of loneliness or isolation

Providing at-home care for elderly relatives can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. However, it is important to remember that loneliness can strike even when others are around. Depending on the needs and preferences of your loved one, it may help to invite other relatives or friends over to your house to encourage more diverse social interactions.

Daily Care and Assistance

Many older people have complex health problems, and those with dementia may require daily assistance with everyday tasks. Some people will be able to manage these healthcare needs without assistance, while others will require the assistance of at-home support services[18].

Personal hygiene assistance

Elderly people, especially those with dementia, often require help with personal care. This may include[19] hand washing, bathing, using the bathroom, laundry, and teeth cleaning. Assisting with personal hygiene can be difficult to navigate, as these are traditionally private activities. Therefore, it is important to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere around personal care and to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of your loved one.

Mobility assistance

If you are caring for an elderly person with mobility problems, make sure you have all the tools you need to assist them at home. Encourage the use of walkers and canes where needed, and make sure your home and shared living spaces are wheelchair-accessible.



How can we take care of the elderly at home?

Caring for elderly people at home can take a lot of preparation. You must make sure you can cater to their medical needs, and that your home is safe and accessible for those with reduced mobility. In some cases, at-home support services may help with medical and personal care requirements.

Who uses home health care the most?

Over 70% of people using home health care services are adults over the age of 65.

Is it better to be cared for at home?

For some people, being able to stay at home is preferable because it allows them to live in a familiar setting and be around family members. However, others have complex health needs that are best catered for in a nursing home staffed by trained carers and medical professionals.

What are the disadvantages of living in a care home?

Care homes can be safer than at-home care as they are equipped to handle all sorts of medical requirements. However, they can be isolating for people without close friends and family nearby. People with dementia may find the unfamiliar environment of care homes distressing.

What are the needs of the elderly?

The needs of elderly people vary significantly from one individual to the next. Some people reach old age without significant healthcare needs, but many have health problems that require specialized care. Some of the most common needs of elderly people include mobility aids and assistance with day-to-day tasks.

What are the considerations in caring for the elderly?

The most important thing to consider when taking on the care of an elderly friend or relative is your capacity to meet their needs. This often includes medical requirements, but social interaction, companionship, and compassionate care are just as important.

What are the 5 basic human needs in aged care?

The 5 key principles of caring for the elderly are safety, dignity, independence, privacy, and communication.




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About The Author

Mary Anne Roberto, the co-founder of Always Home Connected is a dedicated CNA and a Certified Positive Approach To Care Consultant (Teepa Snow), specializing in dementia care.  Her goal is to create awareness about those experiencing cognitive changes and to provide caregivers with resources and tools that are necessary to help alleviate some of the challenges caregivers face on a day-to-day basis.