UNITED STATES—Working with older people has its rewards for those who like to work in a career where they help and get to see first-hand the positive impact they have on people. However, it’s not without challenges.


Working with vulnerable older people who may not have much or any family around them will always be upsetting and switching off at the end of your day can be challenging.

When working in a profession such as A.G.N.P (Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner) which requires specific qualifications, many of the situations you may face and the proper approaches to take will be covered. The placements offered by Wilkes allow you to put this knowledge to practical use. However, when choosing a profession where you care for older people, it’s often difficult to prepare yourself for seeing them suffering and in distress. Finding the right balance between caring enough to do your job, but not letting it not consume you is particularly challenging.

Asking or accepting help

For those who are accustomed to taking care of themselves and most likely having brought up children and grandchildren, and have overcome so many difficulties in their lifetime, it can be a dramatic role-reversal to find they now need looking after, or require more help than they usually need. Sometimes, it’s not easy to see what someone in your care may want or need. Even if the solution is a little more obvious, some people may refuse help or insist they don’t need it. Getting them to let you help can be a challenge. The key is keeping calm and reasoning with them. It can be tempting to force help on someone who refuses it but approaching the situation with a gentle and patient demeanor is most likely to get results.

Delivering personal care

Helping older people dress, bathe or go to the toilet may be challenging for you if you’ve never done such things before. For them, it can be difficult to no longer be able to do those things themselves. It’s important that you keep any feelings of embarrassment to yourself. As you get accustomed to caring for someone in this way, the challenge can be acting sensitively. For them, it may be something they still struggle with. So, it’s important to consider their feelings and not to rush them.


With over five million people currently living with Alzheimer’s in the US, mostly in the older age groups, it’s possible you will be looking after someone with dementia. Experiencing the deterioration of someone’s mind and the upset and confusion this causes them is a big challenge. Patience and kindness are the best approaches when this happens. You may need to explain things multiple times as if each time is the first time but losing patience can upset the person in your care. Giving them important information in written form can be helpful too.

So, although you shouldn’t let the inevitable challenges put you off, you do need to prepare for them.