One might think that caring for aging parents is something that would come naturally; after all, they’re your parents and you’ve had a relationship with them for years. Many people are also eager to give back to parents who gave so much love to them throughout their childhood. Yet caring for aging parents is no simple undertaking.
Whether you’re caring for your elderly parents in your own home or in theirs, the lives of everyone involved will have to adjust to this new caregiving situation. Some of the common issues people face when caring for their aging parents include frustration, burnout, lack of knowledge about medical conditions, and financial strain. The following helpful tips for caring for aging parents will help you navigate these issues and will give you a solid foundation for caregiving.
Tap into Your Compassion
Providing in-home care for your aging parents is already a big part of tapping into your compassion for the people who raised you, but long-term caregiving is going to require constant renewal of that sense of compassion. Caring for aging parents will involve good days and bad, and it’s during the latter that a reminder to tap into your compassion will be much needed.
Some helpful ideas for the days that are frustrating include keeping positive affirmations throughout your home, taking time to look at family photo albums together, talking things out with a spouse or friend, and keeping a gratitude journal as a daily reminder of all the things you appreciate about your parents and why you decided to become their caregiver.
Set Boundaries to Avoid Burnout
One of the biggest misnomers about caring for aging parents is that there will be complete role reversal, that caregiving means the parent will become the child and vice versa. Your parents will always be your parents, no matter how much they come to rely on you for caregiving. This is why it’s important for everyone involved to set boundaries and to discuss what is expected of one another.
Caregivers especially need to set boundaries in order to avoid burnout. Trying to be too accommodating and too flexible requires constant compromise, which leads to frustration and stress. Taking some time to truly think about what your limits are and being firm with your boundaries will enable you to care for your aging parents in a way that is healthy and emotionally sustainable for all.
Plan a Caregiving Budget
Caring for your aging parents is going to involve some costs, especially over the long-term. Thankfully, there are many ways you can plan a caregiving budget that fits within your finances. For example, there are public programs designed to help with caregiving costs. A good place to look for these in California is on the California Department of Aging website. You can also contact local agencies and nonprofits to see what kind of assistance is available in your area. Caregiving assistance comes in the form of tax breaks, too, so ask your accountant if you can get this benefit.
Do be aware that caring for aging parents usually involves financial compromise on the caregiver’s part. Some families decide to allocate vacation pay, money from savings, and leftover spending money into their caregiving budgets. Either way, planning a caregiving budget will prevent the burden of unforeseen financial surprises, allowing you to focus more on the caregiving instead of the costs involved.
Research Medical Conditions
We have more access to information than ever before, but this doesn’t mean that information will always be correct. While it may be easy to research medical conditions and caregiving requirements through search engines and forums, it is important to talk with professionals in order to get the correct information about the kind of help your aging parents need.
The medical conditions of your elderly parents will not remain static; their needs will change over time. Helpful tips include researching medical websites, speaking with your parents’ doctors, and consulting with professional caregivers and medical associations. This is especially important if your parents have conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, or cancer. By doing your research, you will be thoroughly prepared for any changes or developments in your parents’ conditions.
Seek Professional Assistance
Professional assistance for caring for aging parents comes in many forms. Contacting local health agencies and using public programs are two good sources for assisting your caregiving. Additionally, you may want to hire a professional caregiver, especially as the amount of care required for your parents increases, as it inevitably will.
Hiring a professional caregiver doesn’t mean that they have to replace your role as a caregiver in your parents’ lives. Instead, professional caregivers are available to complement the care you are providing and to assist with what your needs may be. If you are thinking about hiring a professional in-home caregiver, please contact Alegre Home Care with any questions and we’re happy to help.
Set Aside Time for Yourself
Much of your focus will be on caring for your aging parents, but don’t forget to take sometime to focus on yourself! It can be tempting to give, give, give, but you have to also help yourself in order to help others. Juggling a full time schedule of work, family life, social commitments, and caring for your elderly parents may not leave much room for “you time”, but even small amounts of time for yourself will help decrease stress.
Some ideas for setting aside time for yourself include taking a wellness class, such as yoga or fitness, going on a walk once day, reading a book before bed, or writing in your journal. Even taking just a few minutes a day for yourself, whether it be a daily ten minute meditation or enjoying a cup of tea, will give you the time needed to reset yourself and let go of some stress.