Physical Needs of an Elderly Person and How to Meet Them

As we age, our needs change. As a result, so do the ways in which we can best be supported and assisted. The physical needs of an elderly person are very different to those of a younger adult or even an older adult who is still working and living independently. Many people assume that elderly individuals don’t have much energy left or that they wouldn’t want to put themselves out anymore by engaging in activities. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Even though their bodies may be slower than before and they may not have quite as much energy as they used to, seniors still crave social interaction and experiences that keep them stimulated. In this article, you will learn about the physical needs of an elder individual and how you can assist them with these requirements in order to promote a happy and healthy life stage.

Dementia Care

Dementia is the deterioration of mental functions, especially memory, caused by changes in the brain. A person with dementia may have difficulty with language, attention, problem solving, and visual perception and have changes in their mood and personality. Risk factors for dementia include old age, a history of head injury, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity, alcohol abuse, and smoking. Most people with dementia require some type of assistance, whether it be with daily activities or with medical care. Dementia care often requires a different approach than care for an individual who is cognitively intact. By understanding the needs of an individual with dementia, you can better serve their needs. You may need to be more careful when assisting with certain tasks, as well as when using language. You may also need to be more patient.

Bathing and Showering

Showers should be a safe and easy way for elderly individuals to clean their bodies, but they can pose many dangers, especially for individuals with mobility issues. Because bathrooms are poorly lit, many elders fall while attempting to shower. Slippery surfaces, improper use of safety bars, and slippery shampoo bottles can also cause falls. Moreover, many individuals lose dexterity and strength as they age, so they may have trouble with the controls or buttons on a faucet. To make showering safer for your elderly loved one, make sure to fully illuminate the entire shower space with lighting, ensure all surfaces are slip-free, and have a sturdy, easy-to-use bar installed to assist with balance while bathing. If your loved one is losing dexterity, try using a handheld showerhead that has a larger trigger.


Dry skin and hair loss are very common among older individuals. This can make grooming challenging. Elderly individuals are especially vulnerable to cuts, infections, and irritation if they shave. This can become a very sensitive issue for loved ones who have a condition such as diabetes or a skin infection, for example. The best way to avoid these issues is to choose a safe kind of hair removal method, choose the right products for skin and hair, and use gentle handling. For hair removal, you can use an electric razor, which is safer than shaving with a blade, or a waxing kit. For your skin, try to avoid soaps, which are drying. Instead, use a gentle lotion, cream, or gel cleanser. And for your hair, avoid shampoos that can be drying and irritating. Instead, use products that are designed for dry and brittle hair.

Diet and Nutrition

Elderly individuals are often at risk of malnourishment, especially if they live alone and have limited access to healthy food or if they don’t have the energy to cook. In these cases, easy-to-eat foods that do not require extensive preparation and don’t require much chewing may be the best option. To ensure your elderly loved one is getting all the nutrients they need, try to encourage a healthy diet. You can do this by cooking healthy meals, making sure your loved one is eating enough, and even supplementing nutritional drinks. You can also monitor your loved one’s sodium and sugar intake, since this can be a big issue for many elderly people. Try to avoid too much sugar, which can lead to weight gain and insulin issues, and too much sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure.

Dressing and Changing

For many older individuals, dressing and undressing can be a challenge, especially if they have reduced strength or dexterity in their hands. Try to avoid doing this yourself, as you may cause your loved one to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Instead, try to use clothing that is easy to put on and take off, such as elastic-waist pants and shirts with large, open collars. To assist with changing, try to keep your loved one as upright as possible, as this reduces the risk of falls. Also, consider purchasing a bed with a built-in slide-out table for hygiene and changing.

Respite Care

Respite care is the term given to short-term, temporary care for an individual who requires assistance but does not require 24/7 care. This can be a helpful way for an elderly loved one to get the assistance they need while still living in their own home. It can also be a helpful way for you to get some much-needed rest. You can find a caregiver who will come over and assist with a few tasks, such as driving your loved one to appointments or assisting with hygiene.

Mobility Assist Devices

The majority of elderly people are able-bodied, but many have reduced strength and stamina and may not be able to walk very far or lift heavy objects. You can help your loved one avoid these issues by considering mobility assist devices. These can include wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, and more. Be sure to discuss these options with your loved one to ensure that they are the best ones for them. You should be more cautious about them than younger people because your elderly loved one is more likely to have adverse effects from these devices, such as back pain from a wheelchair.

Dental Care

As we age, our bodies slowly begin to deteriorate. This can be especially true for our teeth, as gum disease and other oral ailments become more common with age. It is estimated that almost half of adults over 50 years old have some form of periodontal disease. And, every 12 seconds, someone will lose all of their teeth. To avoid these problems and keep your loved one’s mouth healthy, you can help with oral hygiene by using a soft-bristled toothbrush, using a mouthwash, eating a balanced diet, and scheduling regular dental exams and cleanings. You can also try to schedule dental procedures when your loved one is still relatively healthy, such as when they are getting a knee replacement or their foot surgery is scheduled. This will make the dental work go much more smoothly.


When caring for an elderly loved one, it’s important to remember that different challenges and weaknesses may come with age. When you are caring for an elderly loved one, you must be more aware of their limitations and be mindful of their strengths. It’s important to be respectful of their choices and to remember that everyone grows old at their own pace.

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