Caring for an elderly parent can be full-time job sometimes. If you are trying to juggle work and your own family life along with taking care of an aging parent, you can quickly feel overwhelmed. While it is admirable to look after a parent as they get older, it is equally important to take care of yourself and your needs. Some compromise and adjustments on the part of you and the parent or parents you are caring for may be required, but it is possible to find a balance. Remember, it is just as important for you to take care of yourself as it is to provide care for your parents.
• Encourage your parents to retain as much independence as possible – It is easy to get in the habit of depending on someone, especially in a parent-child relationship. Gently encourage your parents to consider using special transportation designed for seniors when you are not able to take them to the grocery store or other places they may need to go. Some areas offer additional senior services, such as delivering daily meals and providing a place for seniors to go during the day to socialize with other seniors. Many of the people who run these services are specially trained to handle the needs of older people.
• Seek professional care help if you are overwhelmed – If you find that your parents need too much of your time, consider using professional care services. This does not mean that you have to put your mom or dad in a home. Many of these services come right to your parent’s home. These services may include daily nursing visits or a person who comes once or twice a week to help with cleaning and other daily tasks. This way you have a little more time for your other responsibilities and do not have to feel guilty about not having enough time to be there to take care of every little thing yourself. You may also want to consider companion services. Someone, usually a volunteer, visits an elderly person on a regular basis so they have someone to keep them company.
• Respect your own needs – It is easy to feel guilty for not being able to attend to all your parents needs. However, your own physical and emotional health is just as important. If you get to the point where you are feeling overwhelmed, sit down and talk to your parents. Remain calm and explain that you have additional responsibilities, such as work and your own family. Ask your parents to avoid making you feel guilty for the times you are not able to drop everything and come help them. Explain that just because you cannot help them every single time they need something, that you still love them are will be there for them as much as possible. It may not be the most pleasant of conversations, but taking the time to establish boundaries can avoid unnecessary guilt and confrontations later.
• Set up doctor’s appointments together – Caring for an elderly parent should not have to mean sacrificing your own health needs. Consider making your doctor’s appointments together. This way you can be there for your parents and help them get to their appointments and take care of yourself at the same time. Caring for an elderly parent doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr. It is just as important for you to maintain your health and care too. If your parents need to go to the doctor more frequently than you, set up some appointments where it is just them. You can still go with them to provide support and any assistance they may need actually getting to and from the appointments. Additionally, having the same doctor allows you to be kept informed of any health issues.
• Share care responsibilities with others – You do not have to do everything yourself. Consider asking other family members to pick up the slack. If you have brothers and sisters, ask if they can help out on weekends or other times they may have available. If your children are old enough, ask them to help with some tasks around the house so you do not fall behind on your normal household work. Ask your parents’ neighbors if they can look in on them from time to time or provide rides to the store and help out with other routine errands. While it is important to provide care for parents as they age, it is just as important to avoid stress and anxiety in your own life as you do your best to help your parents lead a productive life.
Katelyn is a copywriter for Julianna Rae, makers of luxury spa robes for women.
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt