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What Skills Are Needed to Take Care of the Elderly?

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Caring for the elderly is a highly skilled occupation, though it is not always recognized as such, especially when it comes to remunerative award. More training is now given to people who work in health and social care, and both their practical skills and background knowledge are assessed. In addition to practical skills, a good carer needs empathy and a caring nature. Caring for the elderly requires patience and compassion and the ability to see the person, rather than a resident or patient.

Moving and Handling Skills

Caring for the elderly almost always involves some moving and handling. Elderly people frequently have mobility problems, some quite severe. They may need help to mobilize, to stand or to bathe. Moving and handling often involves the use of equipment. This equipment must be checked before using and operating safely. Proper techniques must be used to move residents if injuries to them and the carer herself are to be avoided.

Helping Residents to Eat and Drink

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Meeting the nutritional needs of the elderly person is paramount. Many elderly people have difficulties eating and drinking as a result of illness or frailty. Lack of adequate food and drink leads to further problems, and must be avoided. The elderly person may just need a little help, perhaps to cut up his food, or may need to be fed. The carer should maintain as much of the resident's independence as possible, and always maintain his privacy and dignity. The person should be fed safely, and helped to tidy herself afterward.


The carer should learn how to help an elderly person to bathe or shower safely. He may also need help with other personal hygiene needs, like cleaning his teeth, his nails and washing his hair. A person with severe mobility problems may need to be turned and to receive pressure area care. The carer must carry out these tasks in a safe and skilled way, minimizing any discomfort to the elderly person.


Noreen Wainwright has been writing since 1997. Her work has appeared in "The Daily Telegraph," "The Guardian," "The Countryman" and "The Lady." She has a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Liverpool Polytechnic and a postgraduate law degree from Staffordshire University.

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