Watching your parents age is painful. Taking care of them when they can no longer care for themselves is even harder. Moving to the reversed role of caretaker is a difficult transition that takes time, compassion, and a great deal of patience. Whether you’ve eased into the role of caretaker or become one overnight, know that you’re not alone and help is available. Check out these eight tips for taking care of your aging parents:
- Aging parents can be quite a handful, and caring for them day after day is truly a test of patience. If you’ve accepted the role of caretaker, then you’re probably a very patient person to begin with, but that patience can wear thin over time. As your parent’s condition worsens and they grow more dependent on you, try to maintain some semblance of patience. When frustrations are high, take a timeout and go for a walk, vent to a friend, or do breathing exercises. Find healthy ways to decompress at the end of the day so you feel renewed and ready to tackle another day of caretaking.
- All too often, caretakers put their lives on hold to look after their loved ones. They tend to neglect their own health problems by missing doctor checkups, eating poorly, and not sleeping enough. Putting the needs of loved ones before their own can have devastating effects on caretakers and lead to bigger problems, such as declining health, depression, illness, and substance abuse. You are little help to someone else if you aren’t well yourself. Take time to exercise, eat right, and do the things you enjoy.
- In addition to taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, caretakers also need to keep things in perspective and try to maintain normalcy as much as possible. Even though taking care of your aging parent is a full-time job, you still need to make time for yourself and the other loved ones in your life. Make sure you spend quality time with your family and friends. If you work, make your job a priority and use it to escape from the stresses of caregiving. Even if your aging mother or father doesn’t say it, they wouldn’t want you to miss out on life because you were always caring for them.
- As a caretaker, it’s crucial that you understand what exactly is wrong with your aging parent, what their treatment plan is, and how it works. Talk to the doctor, nurses, and health and social service professionals to get a better idea of what to expect as the disease progresses and how you can prevent further complications. When you go to doctors’ visits, bring your questions and concerns, speak up, and don’t leave until you get the information you need.
- Caretaking shouldn’t be a one-person job. You can only do so much on your own before the stress, excessive worrying, and sleeplessness sits in. It’s a good idea to try to share the duties of caretaking with someone else. It can be a sibling, spouse, cousin, or trustworthy friend; just make sure you have someone you can rely on to help and take turns looking after your parents.
- All caretakers need a plan to make sure that they provide the best possible care to their parents and themselves. With the help of a doctor or another professional, outline both a short- and long-term care plan that meets your capabilities. Consider how much time you have, what you’re willing to do, and who can help assist you in the caretaking. Developing a care plan will help put things into perspective and guide you in your caretaking journey.
- Caring after your aging parents is tough work, and knowing people who are also in your shoes makes it easier to cope. You should strongly consider joining a support group to connect with other caregivers who understand what you’re going through and can offer encouragement and advice. Here, you can make new friends, vent frustrations, and learn from one another. If you’re limited in the time you spend outside the home or care center, you can join one of the many support groups available online.
- Caretaking is a full-time job that you might actually get paid to do. Some states participate in programs that provide seniors, who qualify for Medicaid, money that can be used to pay their caregivers. The caregiver can be a family member, friend, visiting nurse, or anyone else. The funds generally depend on the number of hours you spend caring for your parent. If you’ve had to quit a job or reduce your hours because of your caretaking responsibilities, this money could really come in handy.