How to Cope with an Elderly Relative after a Serious Illness


If you live within close proximity to your elderly relative, it’s likely that you will end up providing much of the social side of their care. Dropping by to chat, keeping an eye on them and generally looking after them are all part of the parcel. If this is your first time looking out for a senior citizen, you may understandably feel out of your depth. Remember, though, that health services are there to support medical needs, while you and other family members are there to look out for them socially.

Consider long-term care

This is a difficult conversation to have both with other family members and the person in question, but long-term care may be the best option for them if they are no longer truly able to look after themselves. When you do go hunting for a care home, be sure to find one that has decades of experience, such as This will put you at ease, particularly if they are suffering from a condition such as dementia where living on their own is not advised. 

Have practical talks with other relatives

If you feel as though other relatives are not helping out as much as they could be or that a particular member has been doing too much, then have a polite but open discussion about how to split the care. Sometimes, it won’t be possible for other relatives to help out as they may live in other parts of the country or even the globe.


It may take some time as those who are suffering with a serious illness might be in denial, but they may wish to open up about how they feel about their condition. Be patient with them, and don’t try and force them to come to any immediate conclusions about how they feel. It may take them some time to fully realise the severity of the situation, and the best way to aid them in that process is to listen carefully and be understanding. If they suddenly decide that they no longer want to discuss the issue in hand, then the most courteous move is to helpfully change the subject for them. 

Seek personal help

You may end up being so caught up with the practicalities of finding them adequate care and looking after them that you temporarily forget to acknowledge the affect it’s having on you. Of course, for a long time, you might be in survival mode, and that might be incredibly helpful to you. Some carers have found that it was helpful to them to seek professional therapy either during or after the process of caring for a loved one. There is nothing selfish or wrong with acknowledging that caring for someone can spark a complex range of emotions. 

The best way to know how to care for an elderly relative is to pay close attention to what your nurses and care providers advise. On top of that, it is important to acknowledge that you are doing the best you can in the circumstances, which should be commended in itself.