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How to Care For Elderly Loved Ones

Updated on March 29, 2019
TripleAMom profile image

Wendy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice. She is married with three children (23, 20, and 14).

Issues Seniors Face

As a therapist, I work with people of all ages. I enjoy working with children, but I also enjoy working with senior citizens. Seniors have a lot to share; a lot of experiences that they can relay to others. I grew up living with my grandmother and I enjoyed things that she had to say. She was full of wisdom, stories of the past, and love. I still remember her advice to me when I left for college. She said, "Never take a mixed drink from someone you don't know". Now that was good advice.

It is sad though to see how many seniors are disregarded. When I talk with older adults in my office, I see them dealing with depression, anxiety, loss of family, and loss of freedom, and frustration over health issues and loss of abilities. They deal with pain issues, multiple medical issues, and death of family members and friends. Those around them don't seem to understand what they are going through and often just find them irritating.

I also work with patients in nursing homes. Males and females alike deal with dementia, Alzheimers, and significant medical concerns like Parkinson's Disease and stroke. Family members may or may not be visiting, and if not there is significant loneliness. They can be confused, frustrated, angry, depressed, and socially isolated.

One amazing lady
One amazing lady

Real Cases (names changed)

Ms. Carol is an 82 year old precious lady who resides in a nursing home. She has dementia and her short term memory is horrible. She can't remember what she ate just minutes after finishing her meal, can not tell you the correct date, and continuously thought it was her birthday though told repeatedly we were having a Christmas party. Her long term memory has some intact features which is common with dementia. Ms. Carol is the only living member of her family so she has no one to visit her so the staff of the nursing home and residents have become closest to her but they change often. Ms. Carol needs to know she is still loved, still thought about, and still matters. One day she was getting her hair done at the facility hair salon and it looked so nice we put some make up on her and gave her a mirror. She looked at herself and exclaimed, "I'm beautiful". She wanted to go somewhere and there was singing going on in the activity room so we took her and she began to sing and dance. The next week I showed her a video because she never remembers things she does, and she couldn't believe it was her. She started to cry and again said she was beautiful. Ms. Carol matters.

John is a 72 year old man who had a stroke. He has a few other health issues and due to the health concerns he can not live alone. He has two adult children but they don't visit and do not call. In fact, when anyone attempts to call either of them they hang up. He is living in a nursing home. He is dealing with depression, loss of freedom, lack of understanding as to why his children have abandoned him, confusion about where his own property is, limited ability physically, and isolating himself. When I first met him he confined himself to his room, didn't attend any activities, and didn't interact with others. He often tells staff, "I wanna go home". I learned that John played the harmonica in the past and he had one with him. I asked him to play and he did. We then began to use this as a way of talking about something he enjoyed. Two nurses then took him out of the residence to a restaurant and he enjoyed that. I then began to encourage him to go to activities that included music and he did. Finally at Christmas he took his harmonica and played at the Christmas party. He was excited to do so. He has been out of his room more, interacting with others, and just recently said, "I wanna go home but I can't". John needs attention, encouragement to interact with others, and to feel that he is important. John matters.

Judy is a 75 year old lady who still resides at home, but had to place her husband in a nursing home about a year and a half ago due to progressing Alzheimers. He had been getting more and more aggressive and it was difficult for her to care for him at home. Prior to his Alzheimers, he was very controlling and difficult, and had caused her family to distance themselves from her. She started seeing me because she was dealing with depression and anxiety as well as continued isolation even though she should have been freer to do as she wanted. Because of years of being controlled as well as guilt for having placed him in the home, she felt the need to sit by the phone and wait for her husband to call her with any need he might have. She visited almost daily and took things to him. She also did not understand why he began to accuse her of things like stealing all his money, having affairs, and other things. As we worked together, she began to understand that she couldn't fight his Alzheimers disease and this was what was taking over the positive parts of his personality. She also began to see that she was not under the "rock" that he had symbolically placed on her, so she was free to go where she wanted and had the right to leave the phone. She learned that the staff of the nursing home were there to help her with him. She began to rebuild her relationship with her daughter and grandchildren and it wasn't long before she had a visitation and call schedule for him and had taken control. Her depression and anxiety went away. Judy needed to learn to be OK with the new phase of life. She needed permission to do what she wanted and create a life that made her happy. She needed her family back in her life. Judy matters.

Amazing lady #2
Amazing lady #2

What Can We Do For Our Seniors?

It is up to us to take care of our aging friends and family members.This may take some time, energy, and maybe finances, and requires a commitment, but it may just be the most educational, fulfilling thing we can do.

Here are some things we can do:

1. Take time to listen to seniors when they talk. They have stories they want to tell and these stories have meaning for them. Some seniors may repeat themselves or forget things at times, but be patient. Don't be in such a hurry. You may actually learn something.

2. Offer to help a senior who lives alone or with an elderly spouse. There are many things they are not able to do for themselves anymore and this comes as a frustration for them. This not only provides help in certain areas of need, but also friendship and companionship.

3. Enlist a senior's help with things they are able to do. If you are a part of a church or service organization, ask seniors to help with activities such as Vacation Bible School, outreaches, sewing projects, reading to children, or so many other things that are possible and that will keep them feeling useful.

4. Teach your children to respect their elders. There is a little girl in our church that I respect so much. For the last few years for her birthday, she has chosen to have a party at a nursing home and instead of getting gifts for herself, she has asked for people to bring things that the residents of the home would enjoy. Bags were made up and given out to the residents with such items as hand cream, brushes, small nicknacks, socks, and other things they could use. During the party, various people played instruments, sang, and entertained the residents in a group room. Now this young lady has it together.

5. Visit a nursing home and volunteer to help with activities or ask if you can visit with residents that have no one who comes to see them. My children have had so much fun going to one and helping decorate cookies, painting bird houses, doing trivia, and just talking to the residents. The residents love to have them around.

6. Please don't disown your elderly parents or relatives. Work through problems. Remember that you may not have a second chance.

Children Showing How It's Done


Seniors are our link to the past and a special part of our present. If we are not careful, we will miss what they have to share. When we take time to listen, help, share, and love, we give back to our seniors and utimately keep them from the pits of anxiety, depression, and despair.

© 2012 TripleAMom


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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is really sad. When we visited my mother-in-law in the past, there were people there who had no one to talk to. I am impressed at how far you and the nurses go out of their way. We hired WeCare to give my mother-in-law someone to talk with when we're not there. It is sad when families just abandon their old people.

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you so much for commenting. Sometimes the best thing that can be done is to find a good nursing home. I sincerely hope you have a good family for support. I'm sure your mother was proud of you and thankful for you.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      I liked your hub and many of the comments.

      My Mother passed away 3 months ago @ age 92

      from dementia, she was in one of the very best homes, but then her and dad had put aside money so they wouldn't be a burden to their chidren.

      I am the eldest of 4 girls and I am now 73, let me tell you it was a full time job to care for her, and even when she was in a home. I had to place here there because they had nurse's, cooks, laundry personal, cleaners and personal caregivers. I just was not qualified for all this.

      There is NO reason for anyone to feel bad about giving them the best care possible.

      I admit I searched long and hard to find a good Home for her, but God led the way for me.

      I have written many a hub during the 6 years I had her .

      I am the eldest now in the family and I feel sad, alone and afraid sometimes...but my Faith will carry me through and I go to support classes, which I recommend to anyone who may need them....:O) Hugs G-Ma

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Made, what a great job. I am a therapist and often have elderly Medicare patients. I really enjoy working with them. Mizmazda, I agree that kids just don't think. There is so much to learn from older adults. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • mismazda profile image


      7 years ago from a southern georgia peach

      Great job. This is so true and so very sad. I don't understand when people be cruel to seniors, well anyone at all. The elderly need our love and affection, and we need to let them know that they are not alone. I think sometime the young forget that they will too get older and that they may need someone to care for them as well. Loved it. Voted up..:)

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 

      7 years ago from Finland

      My job is to help elders in their home. It's a very rewarding job. We have so much to learn from them. I can see how much they appreciate it when I take the time to just sit and talk for a while after I've done all the chores I'm there to do. This is a really good hub. Voting and sharing!

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      tirelesstraveler, my heart has broken for her too, but I keep working with her to know that it is the problem of her son and not her. She is a very sweet lady and I really enjoy her. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      8 years ago from California

      My heart breaks for the lady who, "Just wants to know what she did wrong".

      If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have been Mrs. Nice Mother so often. But then because I was, the young men in my life just about faint when I say ,"No".

      I am going to link this hub to a couple of mine.

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Louis-Thanks for reading and commenting. There are so many cultures that value and look up to their elder members, but so many people in America just don't seem to have the time or can't find the place in their lives. It's easy to push people aside and relationships are what suffer.

    • LouisAlbert profile image


      8 years ago from Taipei

      Great hub. Sometimes it's tough to practice this, but we have to do it.

      Living in Taiwan, I've noticed how extended families stay together, often under the same roof or building or at least in the same neighborhood. This is cultural I know, but it's worth it.

      This is more important than ever with advanced medicine/technology because many of us will live much longer lives. We must show our parents more respect now by spending a greater quantity of quality time together. It's time we create a cultural shift. I don't think we have a choice.

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Pamela, sometimes a facility IS the best place for a senior (or even someone younger) due to severe medical complications. I am glad you didn't feel otherwise after reading my article. One patient I have has a husband with severe mental issues and it has become very difficult for her to care for him. She often has to have him committed to a psychiatric facility due to his mental state. I have already begun to talk with her about what it will look like when she feels he is completely beyond her capabilities and will need an inpatient facility long term. you stated, they should never be placed in a facility and forgotten.

      Moonlake--if you are keeping in contact with your mother by phone and letters, she knows you care. A package with a few of her favorite things would mean a lot. As long as she is not "out of sight, out of mind", and I'm sure she's not. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • moonlake profile image


      8 years ago from America

      It's sad what happens to seniors. Some kids are so good to their parents and others will just let them rot in their homes or nursing homes. My mother is 90 and I feel bad everyday that we don't live closer to be able and help my sister with her. Voted Up.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 

      8 years ago from Southern Clime


      This is a great hub and so much needed!

      Preparing to take care of elderly parents or other relativs can be a big challenge. Although these souls deserve the greatest of respect and love we can give, they, too, can be very difficult when it comes to dealing with big changes in their lives. Nevertheless, we, as you have indicated, must make great effort to understand them and exercise much patience.

      My mom, now 82, fought tooth and nail to stay in her home rather than submit to a nursing home. My siblings and I assisted her closely for nearly ten years before we concluded that our best was not enough. Later, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, severe pulmonary complications, sleep apnea, severe dementia, out of control hypertension and diabetes. She is also unable to walk, roll over in bed, and grasp due to a stroke and obesity. She must have oxygen (B-pap machine) 24 hours a day. She has to be monitored for many conditions, including oxygen level and choking risks, each day. In spite of this, my siblings and I were strongly criticized by others for putting her in a nursing home. She cannot live without round-the-clock professional care. She needs assistance with all of her needs, including swallowing any intake. I am just happy that we are sensible enough to know that Mom is in the best place.

      My point is that no one should feel that they are casting parents, or other senior relatives, aside if they must be placed in a professional care facility. However, it is very important, as you have said, to continue to be a big part of their lives by providing meaningful visitations and cheer. If they are able, they can be taken for rides and other places that would make them happy.


      This is worth repeating often: "We all need to become better listeners."

      I voted up, useful, and interesting. I am also sharing. Thanks again.

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Paul, I'm quite sure your mother was a very special lady and was blessed to have family to care for her. As for the "senior ranks"--congrats. You've got a lot to share with others. Glad you're on Hubpages to do just that :)

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      8 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a very useful hub and personally means something to me since I have just entered the senior ranks. A senior wants nothing more than to be active, worthwhile, and loving to others. Sadly, too many children put their parents in nursing homes when they feel it is an inconvenience to take care of them. Lucky are the ones like my mother who never did have to enter a nursing home after she had Parkinsons so bad she couldn't care for herself. God bless my youngest sister and brother for caring for her. For people having a disease like my mother, going into a nursing home is a death sentence which will be carried out quickly. Voted up and sharing!

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Thank you Teaches--I have a heart for seniors since I lived with my grandmother, and I hate that I see people in my practice who feel depressed and unwanted. Thanks for the comments and votes!!!!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      This is such a sweet hub topic and as I was reading through it it made my heart sing. Your suggestions are ones that will truly make a senior citizen feel wanted and loved. They seem to be ignored and invisible to most neighbors over time. Voted way up!

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Neeleshkulkarni, I am quite sure that your mother was blessed by what you did for her. My grandmother was home until the end, my grandmother in law had hospice in my mother in law's home, and I plan to do the same. The elderly are most definitely contributing members of society and can do more than people think they can. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • neeleshkulkarni profile image


      8 years ago from new delhi

      I fortunately to belong to a country and a generation where seniors were automatically respected and cared for.I took care of my parents at home sacrificing both work time and leisure to be by their side when they were bedridden but yet live with the fact that somewhere i did fall short.

      the next generation is still attached and I am sure my daughters will look after me when i am unable to look after myself but it is fast going away and many elders live at home alone and have children either settled elsewhere or not keen on looking after them.

      the old age home culture where guilt is assuaged by a monthly payment is fast overwhelming us too.the message is clear ,'if you cannot contribute stay away! and may the devil take you so that we can get away with our lives".

    • neeleshkulkarni profile image


      8 years ago from new delhi

      I fortunately to belong to a country and a generation where seniors were automatically respected and cared for.I took care of my parents at home sacrificing both work time and leisure to be by their side when they were bedridden but yet live with the fact that somewhere i did fall short.

      the next generation is still attached and I am sure my daughters will look after me when i am unable to look after myself but it is fast going away and many elders live at home alone and have children either settled elsewhere or not keen on looking after them.

      the old age home culture where guilt is assuaged by a monthly payment is fast overwhelming us too.the message is clear ,'if you cannot contribute stay away! and may the devil take you so that we can get away with our lives".

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Pamela, I totally agree. We are all going to be elderly some day and we need others to care for us. I love all my "adopted" grandmothers and grandfathers. I lost my grandmother when I was in college and still miss her. Thanks for commenting and voting.

      Billy, thanks for reading and commenting. I always appreciate your feedback. It is really sad to go to a nursing home and see those who have no one to visit them.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very, very important message and so well delivered. It is a crying shame how some seniors are pushed out to pasture with no one to care for them. Great hub!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      8 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      This is really good advice you have given here. Yes, even if the person -- the elderly friend or close relative -- is repeating the same stories or even has fairly advanced dementia, that person can still feel and know if we are honestly listening or just waiting to bud in with something of our own to say.

      We all need to become better listeners. I really liked all the suggestions you have made. We're all going to be elderly one day and no matter our age, we all need love and understanding. Great hub! Beautiful, interesting and useful!


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