elderly care
Last updated on March 27, 2023
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The lucky among us get the privilege of aging, and while that is a blessing that is taken away from many, it does not just give us a free pass to being happy and healthy until the day we pass.

Often, the elderly need extra care and consideration, and it takes some great skill to be able to provide this for them in the best possible way.

If you want to make a difference in older people’s lives and are wondering what skills you would need to take on the role, then you have come to the right place.

This piece will discuss the ideal skills you will need and the qualifications that will be beneficial to you when looking after the elderly.


As with any care job, first and foremost, compassion is one of the top priorities in this role. If you are looking after elderly people, that suggests they are in a state of vulnerability, needing help. Treating every interaction with compassion is not only human decency, but it is also vital to the care role as you need your patient or client to trust you. This is so they are able to communicate their wants and needs with you and also be comfortable under your care. Anything that is the opposite of this can have detrimental effects on their health and their care.

It is also worth noting here that compassion does not just extend to elderly people but also to yourself and your colleagues. Caring is a hard job, no matter whether you work in a home or you are an experienced geriatric nurse. You will most likely be in situations that are upsetting and deal with a significant amount of stress in your job, depending on what area you work in. So, remember to be compassionate with yourself too, and those who are also doing the same role as you.


Empathy is an important life skill that should be implemented in almost everything we do, but when it comes to care roles, empathy is an essential skill that cannot be overlooked.

Whether the person under your care is experiencing stress, upset, or anger, or they are having a great time, having the ability to understand what that person is feeling can help you either mitigate a negative situation or elevate a positive one.

Empathy does come naturally to many people, especially those drawn to care roles, but if you want to sharpen your skills in this area, you can take a few steps.

Take yourself out of your comfort zone: It is easy to know how we would feel in our own circumstances, as we deal with them every day, but it can be much more difficult to assume another person’s point of view if you have always been comfortable. Just being able to experience that uncertainty of trying something new can help give you a greater understanding of those around you through humility and learning.

Understand and examine your biases’: We all have biases’. The world that we experience shapes them. However, just because we have a bias does not mean it is the truth. Examining your beliefs about certain things and critically analyzing them can do wonders for growth. It will not only benefit empathy building but will also impact many other skills, which are both useful for personal life and work. When you are able to think critically or change your mind when faced with conflicting evidence, you become a much more well-rounded person that can be more trusted for those in an authoritative position over those who are not able to.

Ask your friends, family, and peers: Asking those who know you well or work with you on a daily basis is also an excellent way to gauge your empathy levels. You might end up hearing something that surprises you, but either way, their honesty should help lead the way for you to develop your empathy skills, or just keep on doing what you are doing!

Communication Skills

Communication skills are essential for almost every job role, but for a care role, they need to be immaculate, especially when the health and safety of a patient or a client are dependent on them.

Communicating with the elderly can be slightly more tricker than others, as many people experience cognitive decline as they get older. This means they might struggle to convey their needs to you or hold a coherent conversation. Being able to master this will be vital to the quality of care you will be able to provide. It can be difficult not to become frustrated when having a difficult conversation with an elderly person. However, it is down to you to keep the conversation flowing in the right direction and reach the correct outcome.

Practice Patience

There are many times in any job where we can lose our patience. It can be because of an unfair boss, a rude customer, or a difficult patient, but the bottom line is that patience will get you much further than succumbing to the frustration in the heat of the moment. Working with elderly people can be testing, especially for those with dementia or other mental health issues, and what might be logical for you could be very difficult for someone else to comprehend.

Patients can be irrational, can repeatedly do things that are bothersome, and some can require consistent clean up or attention. You are only human, and this can feel tiresome for those in a caring role, but practicing patience and understanding will go a long way to keeping every situation calm for both the patient and yourself.

Critical Thinking Skills

Empathy, compassion, caring, and patience are all vital to a role in care, but so are the skills that are perhaps seen as more logical rather than emotional. Critical thinking skills are vital when you work in a care role, as you need to be able to assess a situation under pressure and act appropriately as soon as possible. This could be to prevent an accident from happening or to de-escalate a situation.

Critical thinking skills are also vital for thinking ahead and problem-solving. Not all problems require immediate attention and are right in front of you, but some need careful consideration and a watchful eye. An example of this could be if a new symptom has developed in someone who is unwell, or there has been a change in medication that might cause different side effects.

For those who feel like critical thinking skills are their strength and would like to go down the route of education to hone those in, why not consider a course to become an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Doing so will strengthen the skill set you already have and allow you to progress into qualified care with confidence.


Along with critical thinking skills comes observation. Being able to pay attention to detail and notice the little things is fundamental in care. It can be the difference between a bad day and a comfortable day, or it can sometimes even be the difference between life and death.

Many geriatric patients might find it difficult to communicate with their care provider, which means that observation is necessary to notice any changes. It can be challenging for patients who might be in denial about their condition and work to hide issues from you. This is why observational skills are crucial to providing care to the elderly.

There are also the very basics when it comes to keeping an eye on things, as it is not just the patient you need to be aware of. Issues such as trip hazards or safety breaches need to be eliminated, rooms need to be safety proofed for those who are suffering from mental decline, and care providers need to be on the ball if that room somehow becomes unsafe.

If you want to improve your observational skills, there are some tips that can help.

Take daily pause moments to see what you can notice: It can be easy for us to walk around in a daze thinking about what we need to get for dinner or hurrying to another appointment without taking a moment to look up from the ground. Yet, forcing yourself to slow down and take a look at your surroundings properly can be excellent for improving your observational skills. Look around for a couple of minutes a day and note in your mind everything you see. Continue to do this every day, and be surprised at how many things you start to notice that you have glazed over before.

Focus on details: Try and find a subject such as a person walking, then look at their shoes. What color are they? What type of laces do they have? Are they tucked in, or is there a double knot? Are there any patterns on the shoe? You get the idea. The more you do this, the more you can train your mind to notice the details other people will easily brush past, which will sharpen your observational skills significantly.

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