How Do I Manage an Elder Who Demands All My Time and Attention?

Jacqueline Marcell Health Guide
  • Always screen your calls and never pick up when your elder calls with a nasty demanding tone. If you never give in to moaning and groaning, they will eventually stop trying that approach. But if you eventually give in, you are teaching them that all they have to do is continue pushing harder and harder because you will eventually cave in. Never allow yourself to be manipulated.


    Set reasonable but strict limits of when you can be available and then hold out until your elder asks for your attention in a reasonable way. Then, immediately respond positively to reinforce the good behavior. Be sure to tell them how much you appreciate the way they have approached you this time and be generous with your praise and affection. If you reinforce the good behavior, you will get more of it.

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    Getting your elder involved in activities will be the best thing for both of you. Call your Area Agency on Aging to find the local Senior Centers and Adult Day Care Centers and learn about enrollment and schedules. It may take a lot of coaxing and compassion to get your elder to step out of their comfort zone of home and consent to go someplace where they don't know anyone. Just remember that any type of change can be frightening for elders, but the healthcare professionals are very familiar with this problem and if you ask them they will help you.


    Ask one of the social workers to call and talk to your elder at home a few times to develop a relationship before going. Then take your elder out for lunch and then casually stop by "The Center". Say you'd like to meet that person who was so nice to call. You might alert the staff to try offering your elder a "job", asking for their help with the bingo, cooking, art, singing or dance classes-or whatever they'd be most interested in. Make them feel needed to help others.


    Your elder will probably hate it at first, saying that everyone is too old, it's too much effort, or they just don't like it-but don't give up. Continue encouraging them to attend no matter how much they protest, because eventually they'll get into the routine, make new friends and look forward to going. The pressure on you to entertain them will be drastically reduced.


    If your elder cannot physically go, you can hire a companion to come in and visit with them on a regular basis. This person can read to them, watch a movie, take them out for a walk or a ride, play a game, talk about the old days, etc. You can also ask their friends and relatives to take turns visiting.


    Also, call your local public libraries to find out about their volunteer programs. These volunteers can be very helpful by bringing printed books, audio books, movies and travel videos to the home regularly-which provides another visitor. Also, call the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116) to find out about programs that may be available for the elderly in your area.


    You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at


Published On: June 30, 2008