© 2018, The Author(s). Background: There is currently no international recommendation for the admission or treatment of the critically ill older patients over 80 years of age in the intensive care unit (ICU), and there is no valid prognostic severity score that includes specific geriatric assessments. Main body: In this review, we report recent literature focusing on older critically ill patients in order to help physicians in the multiple-step decision-making process. It is unclear under what conditions older patients may benefit from ICU admission. Consequently, there is a wide variation in triage practices, treatment intensity levels, end-of-life practices, discharge practices and frequency of geriatrician’s involvement among institutions and clinicians. In this review, we discuss important steps in caring for critically ill older patients, from the triage to long-term outcome, with a focus on specific conditions in the very old patients. Conclusion: According to previous considerations, we provide an algorithm presented as a guide to aid in the decision-making process for the caring of the critically ill older patients.