Caring for aging parents definitely comes with its fair share of challenges. Many have found that the emotional, financial and physical demands can lead to burnout. How can you avoid such burnout while still providing the best care for your parents? Keep reading for tips on how to overcome the emotional, financial and physical obstacles of family caregiving.
Tips for those caring for aging parents
Overcoming the Emotional Strain
Taking care of an aging parent can take a lot out of you emotionally, especially if they are suffering from a chronic or terminal illness. It’s only natural to hurt when those who we love are hurting. Seeing your mom or dad struggle on a regular basis and only being
able to help them so much, can be emotionally overwhelming. The limited medical assistance you can offer can leave you feeling inadequate and questioning whether you are truly equipped to take care of them for the long haul.
When it comes to overcoming the emotional wear and tear associated with caring for aging parents, it’s important to remember that guilt, anger, sadness and anxiety are normal feelings to experience. At times, getting over these emotions may simply require reflecting on the positive sentiments that result from caregiving, such as joy and fulfillment. Something else that can help is setting aside time for yourself.
For those in the sandwich generation, me-time may seem virtually impossible. However, whether you are tackling your responsibilities as a parent and family caregiver alone or with a partner, you must find a way to unwind and enjoy yourself. Accomplishing this may involve setting a strict bedtime for your children, hiring a housekeeper or simplifying your life. You may also find it helpful to join a support group for caregivers, which will give you an opportunity to vent to those who can relate to your struggles. Lastly, one of the best things you can do to ease the emotional burden of caregiving is to avoid being too hard on yourself.
Overcoming the Financial Strain
Caregiving can also present financial challenges, particularly when the need for caregiving comes about unexpectedly. In addition, if Mom or Dad have struggled to properly manage their finances, the burden falls on you. Medical bills, home modification expenses, and even legal fees may leave you feeling hopeless. Thankfully, there are ways to combat even the most overwhelming financial struggles associated with caregiving.
If you have the time to plan before taking on the caregiver role, make a list of your current expenses and then any new ones you will need to take on or manage. Depending on your parent’s financial situation, there may be costs that they will be able to cover, but require your oversight to avoid incurring late fees or cancellations. This is an ideal situation, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. You may need to not only oversee your parent’s financial obligations, but also foot the bill. How can you accomplish this without going broke? Once you have a handle on what the expenses are, then you should make a plan for how to finance them. Aim to reduce your expenses and that of your parents by downsizing and simplifying.
Do you or your parents have debt due to medical bills or legal fees? You may want to consider consolidating that debt with a personal loan. In addition, your home
or your parent’s home–depending on where caregiving will take place–may require senior-friendly modifications. Instead of shelling out your own money, look into types
of grants available to seniors for home renovations.
Overcoming the Physical Strain
One challenge of caregiving that can be easily ignored is the physical toll it can take on a person. When tending to a parent that requires round-the-clock care, your body has little time to rest. Don’t underestimate the physical impact of waiting on another person hand and foot. You may notice that you feel achy, tired or fatigued. When you start to experience some of these physical symptoms of caregiving, don’t ignore your body’s warning signals.
Because being a caregiver requires more than just your mental and emotional faculties, it’s important to get proper rest, exercise and eat properly. First, focus on rest. If you don’t get enough sleep it will be difficult to exercise, eat properly or even take care of your parent to the best of your ability. So get into a routine of going to bed at a reasonable time. This will require establishing a routine for your mom or dad, as well. Of course, you have to account for surprises or emergencies, but aim to stick to your schedule as much as possible. Moreover, if you get into the habit of getting enough sleep, it may be easier for you to achieve the recommended thirty minutes of physical activity per day. In turn, establishing a routine for sleeping, exercising and tending to your elderly parent’s needs will allow you to incorporate balanced meal preparation and consumption. Remember that the care you are able to provide to your parents is directly related to the personal
care you give to yourself. Lastly, never be afraid to ask for help, whether that involves calling on a trusted friend or seeking professional relief.
Taking on the responsibility of caring for an aging parent can be challenging and rewarding, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Do your best to apply the three tips above and the whole family will be thankful!