Over 40 million people in the United States provide care for an adult over the age of 65 (source). Of those being cared for, 90% are aging parents or relatives. Becoming a caregiver can be overwhelming as roles are reversed between parent and child. For some, the change happens gradually as parents naturally age and require more care. For others, a traumatic event such as an injury or illness can bring about an immediate and sometimes unexpected change to the family dynamic.
If you find yourself becoming a caregiver for your parent, it can be taxing both physically and emotionally. However, it can be equally rewarding and fulfilling when you have the right support. Here are some tips to consider as you transition into the role of caregiver.
Develop a routine
Establishing a regular routine to assist your loved one with their daily needs can help you and your parent to adjust to this new lifestyle. You’ll want to consider things like daily medications, extra time for assistance with dressing, using the bathroom and bathing if needed, mealtime and preparing for bed. Creating a daily schedule can help you to prioritize and maintain other responsibilities within your life. Schedules can also prove useful in planning your loved one’s doctor’s appointments, in order to cause the least amount of disruption in their day.
If you are still working, you may wish to share this schedule among other family members and agree upon how to split up responsibilities. If your parent is receiving additional in-home care, you can develop a shared schedule with their nurse or aide to ensure everyone is on the same page with things like medication management and meals.
In addition to documenting your loved one’s care routine, it’s critical to keep a record of their medication dosages, pertinent medical history, and to list important contact information for family members, doctors, pharmacies and emergencies. This allows you to easily share information with other caregivers if you travel or unfortunately become ill.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There have been several studies that have reported on the mental and physical impact of care-giving. Around 10% of caregivers say that their health has declined since becoming a caregiver. Often, the primary caregiver spends so much time and physical energy caring for their loved ones, that they neglect to care for themselves.
“It’s critical that caregivers find ways to recharge,” said Sarina Swiatek, Care Services Manager for Elderwood Health Plan. Elderwood Health Plan is a Managed Long Term Care plan which provides long-term care services to help people remain in their homes longer.
Making time for yourself as a caregiver is extremely important. “We know the pressures that caregivers face, as many of us experience being a caregiver at some point with our own families,” said Swiatek. “Many aging adults face physical and cognitive challenges which can become overwhelming to manage.”
Here are some basic considerations when it comes to taking care of your health:
- Try to maintain your own preventative health care, such as routine doctor’s appointments, as much as possible.
- Engage with a local or online support group. The support of others going through a similar situation can help you to gather advice and cope with the stresses of caregiving. Many support groups are now online, or social media based which allows caregivers to connect and support one another conveniently from their own homes, or on-the-go through their phones. You find several support groups here.
- Most importantly, make time for yourself. As hard as this can be, allow yourself breaks both mentally and physically. If other family members or friends are not available to assist, consider a local respite care option. Respite care can provide peace of mind for short stays, and your loved one will be taken care of in a safe and medically-supervised environment. It’s a great option for caregivers to rejuvenate and recharge.
Providing care for your parent or aging loved one is a great gift that comes with new responsibilities. For more information on respite care or to discuss care alternatives, such as assisted living, contact Elderwood and we’ll guide you through your options.