Caring for a senior person comes with its own special challenges and stresses.

Perhaps you care for an elderly parent suffering from dementia, a frail older partner, or someone older with intellectual disability.

Whatever the situation, the carer tips below may help. They have been suggested by real carers we have interviewed over many years who have ‘been there and done that’ so their words of wisdom are from an authentic lived experience.

Friends

Best tips from experienced carers of seniors

  1. Take a break without feeling guilty
    Allow yourself some respite time, at least a couple times each month, without feeling guilty. A refreshed carer is a much better provider of care when they themselves have taken a much-needed break.
  2. Helping your loved one look good can help them feel good, too
    Washing your loved one’s hair, getting them a trim or a haircut can vastly improve how they feel and see themselves. Update their clothes as their size changes or they lose or gain a lot of weight.
  3. Give them the freedom to forget
    Do not assume your family member remembers even the simple parts of life they've always known. Do not assume they like what they've always liked: music, television, current events, travel, past favourite foods, visiting in large groups of people. Do not assume they remember the person in church greeting them, or the neighbour next door, or even you. Allow them the space to remember and forget at their own pace.
  4. Call or visit regularly
    Most seniors who do not get out much usually experience loneliness. Their phone seldom rings and the television is often left on all day for company. They want to hear the sound of other voices but that doesn't take the place of visiting with other people or spending time out in public. Set a specific day and time each week to call, to give your loved one something to look forward to. A simple letter or greeting card (or email or text message if they are IT-savvy) to let them know they are missed and loved can make their day and remind them that someone cares.
  5. Allow them to change – and accept when they do
    Whether it’s a physical incapability or behavioural change, realise that it is okay that your loved one is not the person you remember. Step back and realise the only way they can get peace is to let them be.
  6. Never make them feel incapable, or say “no” outright

Be considerate about things that may be embarrassing to them (e.g. helping them out of a wheelchair or shower). Be as creative as you can be. If they’re confused about what is going on, ease the confusion by asking questions about their past and suggesting activities like going for a drive and pointing out all their favourite locations. Do what you can to make it feel like they aren’t being denied anything.

  1. Be patient and respectful
    Regardless of the reasons they need care, it is important to provide loved ones’ care in ways that are respectful of their dignity and independence. You need to be patient.
  2. Accept help
    You need to take care of yourself to take care of someone else. If people offer to help, accept the help.