Overnight care: A reassuring presence

The Bottom Line

  • Many older adults want to age in place for as long as possible.
  • The familiar home environment promotes the maintenance of daily life activities and contributes to independence, self-esteem and dignity.
  • Older adults sometimes need help with their medical and personal care routines to continue living at home safely, whether it is regular or regular help.
  • Overnight care and assistance services contribute to improving quality of life and well-being by providing medical care, personal care and social interactions. These services can also help prevent hospital admissions.

According to the United Nations, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to double worldwide by 2050. Older adults increasingly want to age in the comfort of their own home rather than moving to a nursing home or other long-term care facilities. As there are more older adults at home, the demand for home care is increasing.

About 1 in 4 Canadians care for a loved one. Caregivers and family members play a vital role in helping their loved ones live independently in their home. They know their routines and habits better than anyone. But caregivers also need rest. This is where overnight care and support services come into play: they offer a valuable solution outside of "office hours" in terms of care and comfort. Traditionally, these services focused on domestic and household tasks, but they now include personal care, medical care, emotional support, a reassuring presence at certain key moments such as getting up and going to bed, or sometimes throughout the night.

Finding qualified and trusted staff to care for your loved ones during the day is one thing. But with staff shortages plaguing all employment sectors, finding qualified and trusted staff working night shifts is a big challenge.

What types of support are available for people aged 65 and over who need overnight care at home?

What research tells us

A recent evidence synthesis identified five European studies on this topic.(1) Here are the main themes that emerged from these studies and which are applicable to our North American reality:

1. The importance of a reassuring environment and familiar relationships

This is no surprise: older adults prefer to be cared for in a familiar environment – their home – because it allows them to maintain their habits and routines. They also prefer to know the person who provides care and develop a relationship of trust over time. This is important to preserve dignity, especially in the context of personal care provision, as well as to ensure continuity of care. Except for calls for unforeseen situations, night staff visits are often scheduled on a regular schedule, which allows caregivers and older adults to get to know each other and develop this bond of trust.

2. Support for personal choices

Aging at home and receiving care at home is a choice that many older adults make. Overnight care services allow elderly people to remain independent for as long as possible with a little help. Overnight care also helps avoid unnecessary admissions to a hospital or nursing home, facilitates hospital-to-home transitions (for example, after a surgery), and relieves emergency services. It is therefore essential that the staff who carry out this work is sufficiently qualified to recognize when the care required at home is no longer possible and it is necessary to go to the hospital. In many countries, staff who provide palliative care at home (often overnight) play an important role supporting terminally ill people by ensuring that they make informed decisions about end-of-life care, meeting their physical needs, emotional and spiritual.

3. Providing a relief to older adults who are lonely… and to caregivers who are stressed

Overnight care services can reduce anxiety and feelings of loneliness by providing a safety net for both the older adult needing care and their caregivers. Caring for a loved one can be emotionally and physically difficult for family members. Overnight care services therefore provide peace of mind to families, knowing that in the event of a medical emergency or domestic accident, the necessary measures will be taken by competent caregivers.

Do you need overnight care?

Ask your healthcare professional or your health and social services center about the resources available to watch over you or your loved one during the night. Home-based primary care programs exist and are a solution to allow older adults to safely age in place.

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Author Details


  1. Boyle, N., Seddon, D. and Toms, G. Exploring overnight social care for older adults: A scoping review, Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, 2023, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAOA-11-2022-0070

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.