Caring for elderly parents

Caring for elderly parents: Tips on what to expect

6 min read |
Alistair Clay Author

Author 19.05.2023

Alistair Clay

There may come a time when you find yourself caring for elderly parents at home because of their increasing care needs.

While becoming a caregiver might come naturally for some, others may need support to steer them in the right direction.

There are many facets to elderly care which carers should be aware of when caring for elderly parents.

This article will cover everything you need to know about caring for elderly parents so you can help them live and age well at home.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Caring for elderly parents is a given for many families who want to support their loved ones as they age. 
  • It’s essential to understand what care needs you are supporting and how to provide the best care in an appropriate way. 
  • This could mean making modifications to their home, spending more time helping with housework or providing physical care. 
  • As a family caregiver it’s easy to get burnt out, so it’s important to reach out for support and make use of home care services.
Caring for elderly parents Tips on what to expect

Understanding what care your elderly parents need

As we get older, our bodies change, and everyday simple tasks can become more difficult or even impossible without support. 

When starting to provide care for elderly parents, it’s important to understand what their care needs are day to day. 

As well, of course, as any specific care they need for a certain condition or illness that requires treatment or monitoring.

One way we can establish care needs when caring for elderly parents is to look at the activities of daily living.

Are you worried about a loved one?

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Activities of daily living

Activities of daily living (ADL) are the basic self-care tasks that are essential for people to keep themselves healthy, clean, safe and happy. 

They are things that you need to do every day, such as 

  • feeding 
  • managing appearance
  • toileting
  • bathing
  • transferring between positions

There are also Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)  which require thinking and organisational skills. 

These include managing finances and communication, medication or transport – all things which your elderly parent may need support with.

What is expected from you when caring for elderly parents?

Caring for elderly parents can be understood on three levels of need which will determine how much time you devote to their care. 

If your parent has mild care needs they may occasionally need help around the house with general tasks or support with medication. 

For more significant care needs, support with personal care and lifting may be required for those with mobility issues. 

Full-time care needs mean that supervision and support is needed with most tasks including hygiene, feeding and help at home.

Becoming a caregiver for elderly parents

Becoming a caregiver for elderly parents

Now you can decide if you will provide care for elderly parents, hire a professional carer or use a mix of both. 

What you choose may be based on your eligibility for funding which is decided in your loved ones’ care needs assessment

However you organise your loved ones’ care, it is important that you understand their needs, wants and expectations for care. 

It’s not easy for older people to admit they need help, so listen to them and help them to feel comfortable at this point of the care journey.

Taking on care responsibilities for elderly parents

Lifestyle change

Taking on care responsibilities for elderly parents is a big lifestyle change that may take some time to get used to. 

If you are working, you may have to provide care in your free time or adopt a more flexible work schedule so you can be on hand when needed. 

Leaving a job to care for parents is, of course, a big decision, but it can be necessary if you wish to care for them yourself. 

Don’t forget that you can apply for some benefits if you are caring for at least 35 hours a week – find out more in can I claim carers allowance for myself? 

Caring for elderly parents What to expect

Caring for elderly parents: What to expect

Once you have established your elderly parents’ care needs, it’s time to start putting the care in place. 

It’s hard to say exactly what to expect when becoming an elderly caregiver as your experience depends on your loved ones care needs.

Caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s may look very different to supporting a parent with minimal care needs. 

In this section we’ll look at a few things you may come up against as an elderly caregiver so you know what to expect.

elderly parent care

Cognitive decline 

Conditions that cause cognitive decline, such as dementia or Parkinson’s can have some unique care challenges. 

Understanding your loved ones’ care needs as well as how to help them relax if they become agitated or confused is essential. 

Their emotions and behaviour can also change significantly, which can be upsetting. 

To learn more about what is dementia? or what are the 5 stages of Parkinson’s disease? head to our advice pages. 

caring for elderly parents


Caring for elderly parents who are frail and may be at risk of falls means a high level of support with activities is needed. 

To prevent falls, support them with activities and ensure mobility aids are available for walking and in risky areas such as stairs and bathrooms. 

For more advice on how to prevent falls in elderly loved ones read our guide. 


It can be hard to accept that you need help or come to terms with a life-limiting diagnosis such as dementia. 

So it’s normal that emotions might be high when caring for elderly parents, both for them and you. 

Try to have empathy and be patient when caring for elderly parents as getting angry with them or arguing back will only cause distress.

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Sadly loneliness is a huge issue for older people, especially those living alone who rely on visits from family or other caregivers. 

If you notice your loved one becoming withdrawn, depressed or demotivated, they may be experiencing loneliness. 

This could happen after the loss of a partner or pet, or due to health conditions that are preventing them from seeing friends or leaving home. 

You can support them by helping them access community groups or spending time with them to do an activity that they enjoy.

Are you worried about a loved one?

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Personal care

Helping your loved one with personal care tasks such as using the toilet and cleaning themselves can be overwhelming for new caregivers. 

They may be feeling embarrassed so it’s important to treat your loved one with care and dignity to help them feel comfortable. 

It can be a good idea to get advice about caregiving techniques or to get support from a home care professional for personal care.

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If your loved one has mobility issues they may be unable to move themselves in bed and from chairs and toilets. 

For those who are bed bound, getting in and out of bed as well as turning over requires lifting that caregivers should be trained to do. 

Knowing the correct techniques is important so that you don’t get injured, but also ensures safety for the person being lifted. 

looking after elderly parents

How to look after yourself when caring for elderly parents

Everyone’s care journey will look different, so try not to compare how you’re doing or how your parents are to other people.

However, it is important that you seek support and advice if you’re struggling with any aspects of care. 

On top of this, it’s essential that you are able to relax and look after yourself aside from your care duties. 

Or you risk caregiver burnout and being unable to support your loved one as they need you to.

Why do carers need respite care? 

Caring for elderly parents isn’t easy

It’s no secret that caring for elderly parents can be a full-time occupation with many challenges, both physical and emotional. 

Depending on the care needs they have, you may find yourself working round the clock, or supporting in ways that you don’t feel confident. 

However, for many people they feel that caring for their elderly parents is something they have to do – a family expectation. 

While this may be the case, remember that there is a lot of support out there to help you and help your parents stay independent at home. 

Self-care and time off

It’s important to take breaks away from your care responsibilities to stay mentally well and able. 

You can avoid caregiver burnout by looking after your physical and mental health, including giving yourself credit for your hard work. 

Plus, utilising home care services such as respite care or having an external carer provide home care assistance can take the pressure off. 

If you need extra help while caring for elderly parents, there’s no shame in getting support from a professional elderly carer.

show needs for care needs assessment

Caring for elderly parents with external support

There are many community services that offer support to elderly people and their caregivers, and can be a great addition to the weekly routine. 

To change the setting and get social, your loved one could attend an adult day centre – find out what is a day centre here. 

Use a befriending service or companion care to help with how to cope with loneliness or to give you some hours to yourself. 

You can even get a hot meal delivery service delivered straight to their door to reduce time in the kitchen.

Planning for future care eventualities

While ageing does include a few physiological certainties, it’s hard to predict what kind of care your parents may need in the future. 

There may come a time when their care needs exceed what you are able to provide – or  you have to step back due to factors in your own, such as work or family commitments.

Stay flexible and positive and you will do the very best by your loved ones.

caring responsibilities

If you found this guide useful then you might like to check out these guides on:

paying for home care

Find home care for your loved one

Organising your loved one’s care should be simple, not stressful. 

Getting them the care they need can be done in just a few steps when you use the Sweet Pea app. 

Tailor your search to the care they need and get matched with home care providers in your area today. 

Just click below to get started. 

Alistair Clay Author

Author 19.05.2023

Alistair Clay

Alistair is a founding Director of Sweet Pea Care and the Managing Director of social care communications agency Arc Seven where he advises some of the UK’s biggest care providers.