It can be heart-wrenching to realize that your parents, once strong and self-sufficient, are no longer able to look after themselves. Perhaps mom or dad has fallen and broken a hip, has become disoriented and wandered off, or has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Then there is the other side of the coin. The elderly may find it hard to accept that physical changes or other circumstances now limit their independence. What can be done? How can they be looked after?
The time comes when most elderly people are no longer able to care for themselves fully; they need some assistance. As you begin caregiving, take time to learn as much as you can about your parent’s condition. If he or she is confronted with a degenerative illness, learn what future developments you can expect. Contact government agencies that provide services for the elderly. Find out what community resources are available to make your task easier and the care better. The approaching change in family circumstances may cause you to experience unsettling emotions-feelings of loss, shock, or confusion. Share your thoughts with a trusted friend.
All too many families do not make plans, and then they are forced to make difficult decisions hurriedly when a crisis occurs. This “is almost invariably the worst possible time to make such a decision,” observes one expert. In that rushed atmosphere, family members may be tense, and conflicts may arise. Long-term planning, on the other hand, makes future adjustments less traumatic.
In many families, much of the responsibility of caregiving seems to fall on one son or daughter, the one who lives closest to the parents. Yet, primary caregivers ought to balance their parents’ needs with the needs of their own families. There is a limit to each individual’s time and energy. And the caregiver’s situation might change, making it necessary to review the current arrangements. Is one family member perhaps taking on too many responsibilities? Could the other children do more, such as by taking turns providing care?
When an elderly parent is in constant need, there is a risk of caregiver burnout. Loving children want to do what they can for their parents, but unremitting demands can become overwhelming. Caregivers who find themselves in this situation need to be realistic, possibly asking for help. Periodic help may be all that is required to prevent premature recourse to the services of a nursing home.
It is upsetting to see the painful effects of age on beloved parents. Many caregivers experience some sadness, anxiety, frustration, anger, guilt, even resentment. At times, an aged parent may say unkind things or show a lack of gratitude. If that happens, do not be quick to take offense. Talk with your spouse, another family member, or a trusted friend about how you feel. Such conversations can help you put emotional reactions in perspective.
The responsibilities of caring for your parents as they age can be complex and emotionally trying. There is no set of right solutions when it comes to providing senior care. Yet, with wise planning, thoughtful cooperation and good communication you can fulfill the responsibilities of seeing to the care of your loved ones.
The South Sound Care Connection is a registry of Independent caregivers and Housekeepers. We are dedicated to matching quality caregivers and housekeepers with seniors and their families who need assistance in their home or in a facility. If you have questions about in-home care, please call us at (360) 586-4491 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help or answer any questions you have about in-home care!
Submitted by: Cathy Lovedahl, Care Connection Referral Specialist