You’ve assumed the role of primary caregiver for your senior parent. Over time, you’ve come to realize that life as a caregiver is a full-time job with as many rewards as responsibilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• More than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability.
• Caregivers report having difficulty finding time for one’s self (35 percent), managing emotional and physical stress (29 percent), and balancing work and family responsibilities (29 percent).
• Caregivers said they do not go to the doctor because they put their family’s needs first (67 percent said that is a major reason), or they put the care recipient’s needs over their own (57 percent). More than half (51 percent) said they do not have time to take care of themselves and almost half (49 percent) said they are too tired to do so.
Caring for a parent can be stressful, but there are ways to minimize the strain.
Understand your limits
You certainly know the importance of caregiving. Just as important, though, is knowing that there are limits to your physical and mental capabilities. To cope, you need to establish a plan for handling the caregiving process before it overwhelms you.
Find helpful resources
Support for caregivers continues to expand. Resources include:
• Eldercare Locator, which provides referrals to Area Agencies on Aging (eldercare.gov)
• Family Care Navigator, a state-by-state resource providing services for family caregivers and older or disabled adults living at home or in a residential facility www.caregiver.org
• State Units on Aging, which offer info on services and programs for seniors (www.nasuad.org)
Get help from family and friends
You may find it difficult to seek aid from others, including family and friends. Realistically, though, you will need their assistance throughout the caregiving phase of your life. Helpguide.org suggests the following:
Set aside one-on-one time to talk to the person.
• Go over the list of caregiving needs you’ve drawn up.
• Explain how the person might be of service.
• Ask the person if he or she would like to help, and if so, how.
• Make sure the person understands what would be most helpful to you and your parent.
Take time away
The toll that caregiving takes on providers is well-documented. For the sake of your health, it’s imperative that you find ways to relax and rejuvenate. Consider this advice from Helpguide.org:
• Stay social. Visit regularly with other people, and nurture your close relationships.
• Maintain balance in your life.Don’t give up activities that are important to you, such as work or hobbies.
• Find a community. Join or reestablish your connection to a religious group, social club or civic organization.
With the right information and support, you can excel – and even flourish – in your role as caregiver for your senior parent.