We all love to plan things. We plan our weddings, the arrival of a new baby, graduation celebrations, birthday parties and simple things like the dinner menu or a lunch date with a friend.
Most of us live by the clock and the calendar. But what about the unplanned occurrences in life that happen when we least expect them?
Mom and Dad have always been the anchors of the family. In many cases, their home has been the place where brothers, sisters, kids, grandkids, aunts, uncles, and cousins gather.
Did you notice something different the last time the family got together at Mom’s house? She could not seem to pull the meal together and Dad looked weak and tired.
The grass was almost up to the front window and the refrigerator was in desperate need of a cleaning. Dad couldn’t explain the dent in the car, and Mom needed a haircut.
The realization that our parents need help or ongoing care can be overwhelming.
- How will you approach them?
- How much help will they need?
- Who will be available to share the burden of taking care of parents who might be resistant to ask for or accept help?
We all know our parents might need our help as they age, but when caring for elderly parents, stress can build up quickly and without warning.
You want to be there for them to show them the same love and support they have always given so generously, but what do you do about the responsibilities of your own life?
If you don’t take care of yourself and your own needs, you won’t be able to be an effective caregiver for your parents.
Let’s look at some tips for making the transition from the adult child to the caregiver a little easier.
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What can you do to alleviate some of the stress and emotional effects of caring for an elderly parent?
- Assess the situation and determine the needs your parents have.
- Engage the help of family members.
- Be positive.
- Ask your parents to have a medical evaluation.
- Ask for your parent’s input and allow them to help make decisions regarding their future. They need to feel they are still in control for as long as they can.
Once you determine the needs your parents have, you can figure out the details of the care they will require.
They may be able to stay in their own home with the help and intervention of family and friends.
Sometimes gentle reminders and a watchful eye are all that is needed to assure their safety and well-being.
If you are the caregiver, you should check in by phone or in-person daily to be sure Mom and Dad are safe and well. This responsibility can be stressful, but it is usually manageable once everyone gets into a routine.
Try to make it as easy on yourself as you can. Pick up groceries and other needed items when you’re shopping for your own. Hire someone to cut the grass or help with household chores if the funds are available. If not, try to get other family members to help with some of those things.
You may have to be more observant when you visit to make sure your parent’s mental health is not declining.
If your parent has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or a debilitating medical condition the role of the caregiver becomes much more demanding and the emotional effects can be devastating.
You may have to move your parent in with you. Watching your mom or dad become confused and disoriented is emotionally draining.
Share your feelings and concerns with a family member, a trusted friend, or a professional who can help you understand what your parent is experiencing.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you need to step away from the situation to re-group. Some insurances have a caregiver component. Take advantage of it. If not, maybe a friend or family member can fill in for you occasionally so you can take a well-deserved and needed break.
Caring for elderly parents can be a privilege and a gift to the caregiver. Your parents were your first friends, your protectors, your mentors, and the ones who loved you through the hard times.
When the time comes, you can be all those things to your aging parent. Just remember to take care of yourself, seek and accept help when you need it, and meet your parents where they are. The rewards will far outweigh the challenges if you stay positive and enjoy the time you have together. Click here for more information about caregiver stress and how to cope with it.