As members of the Silent and Baby Boom generations age, their children and grandchildren are searching for ways to care for them. They’re asking themselves, “Do we let Mom and Dad come stay with us?” “Do we hire an in-home aide to keep an eye on them?” “Should we look into a retirement community for them to live in?” These are questions with no easy answers.

Caring well for the elderly all starts with understanding their needs and taking the appropriate action. Each senior citizen is different. One may struggle to do some basic physical tasks but be mentally sharp. Another might be in perfect physical condition but be experiencing mental decline. Knowing what a beloved elder’s needs are now and what they’ll likely be in the future will help you plan for their care.

Without a doubt, it can be stressful to weigh decisions about the ones you love who are aging. The financial cost of healthcare can be a burden, not to mention the emotional toll of dealing with elderly loved ones. You must also consider the type and degree of assistance they require. How close you live to the person you’re caring for also makes a difference in how to address their needs. No matter what type of care is indicated, safeguarding elders demands compassion and thoughtful decision-making.

Determine the Degree of Assistance Required

The care senior citizens need can vary greatly from one person to another. You’ll have to take your elderly loved one’s physical and mental capabilities into account. Obviously, elders with advanced dementia can’t live safely by themselves and may require a full-time nursing home placement. Since individuals with dementia are less able to defend themselves against elder abuse, you will have to be vigilant in monitoring their care. Nursing home abuse lawyers should be consulted if you identify any signs of mistreatment.

On the other end of the spectrum, a spry 80-year-old may only want transport to her weekly bridge game. If your elderly loved one is experiencing minor mobility issues, assistance with yard work, house cleaning, or getting to appointments could fit the bill. Whether they live alone or with a spouse, partner, or family member is another factor to take into consideration. 

As you strive to determine how much assistance your elderly loved one needs, keep in mind the six activities of daily living (ADLs). These are mobility, feeding, dressing, personal hygiene, continence, and toileting. If you notice any deterioration in the ADLs — say, unkempt hair or clothes or signs the person isn’t eating well — more intervention is called for. 

Show Up for Elders Who Live Nearby

By 2060, the CDC reports that a quarter of the U.S. population will be older adults over the age of 65. How you care for your beloved members of that growing population can change depending on their proximity to where you live. 

The aforementioned ADLs cover most essential tasks including shopping, transportation, home cleaning, meal preparation, finances, and medication management. Living near someone who’s struggling with these tasks gives you the ability to quickly step in and help as needed.

For elders who can still live independently, simply checking in with them on a regular basis may be all the intervention necessary. Visiting elderly people allows you to help with manual tasks around their home. It also helps combat loneliness, especially for those senior citizens who live alone. 

Arrange Care for Elders Who Live Far Away

The situation isn’t as straightforward when those you care about live a long distance from you. If a faraway elder is struggling with one or more of the ADLs, consider your options. Do they have trusted neighbors?  Maybe they have friends from church or a civic organization who can assist. Tapping into an existing pipeline of potential volunteers that already know your loved one can help them with daily tasks. 

When circumstances call for a greater degree of intervention, you’ll want to contemplate an in-home caregiver or residential facility. Look at what types of care their insurance plan covers. If the situation dictates a move into an assisted living facility, do your research. Some centers specialize in memory care for those who are in relatively good physical condition, while others do the reverse. Consider facilities recommended by your insurance and friends or family members you trust. 

A Community That Cares

Wherever your loved one falls on the capability spectrum, having a supportive community matters. If they just require occasional check-ins or assistance with tasks, social connections can play a big part in meeting their needs. These interactions can help prevent isolation and loneliness, which have their own devastating effects on the health of older adults. Even if a senior citizen is no longer living independently, their yearning for community doesn’t change. They need compassionate caregivers and visitors who love them and want to spend time with them.

And as important as it is for you to care for your aging elders well, you have to care for yourself, too. Tending to the needs of older people can be emotionally taxing. Be sure you’re carving out space for your own mental health. If you’re physically and emotionally drained, you can’t care well for those who need you. Building a community to care for your loved one that extends beyond yourself will help both you and the people you love.