Along with the sense of satisfaction that comes with caring for an ill or disabled parent comes the stress. The reason for this double-edged sword is that it is challenging to not only care for the individual who cared for you for your formative years, but at the same time you may be juggling the responsibilities of your own home, raising your own children and the demands of a career.
When you’re caring for an aging parent you may have to negotiate time off from work to deal with their illness or take them to doctor’s visits and there will likely be the inevitable tension-filled family dynamics that could arise from one family member feeling he is shouldering most of the load to conflicting ideas on care and caregiving. All of these tensions can contribute to increased stress which can then lead to poor physical and emotional health.
If you find yourself in the role of caregiver for an aging parent, there are steps you can take to alleviate some of the stress, including:
- Going online and looking for advice. Asking your family doctor for ways to cope.
- Ask friends and family members for help. In many cases, one sibling jumps in and takes control without asking for advice or help and then resentments grow as he or she feels she is shouldering too much of the burden. You need to ask for help because if you don’t your siblings may not realize you need it. Additionally, when the health of your parent becomes too much to manage without specialized medical training, you will need to look for a trained in home medical professional to provide care
- Look for a support group for caregivers. This could be a valuable resource and a great way to interact with individuals coping with the same stresses you are.
- Make certain you take time for yourself. You need to be able to step away from the role of caregiver and simply relax or spend time with your family. Make arrangements with a sibling or friend or even a hired caregiver so that you can take a day or two off a week from the responsibilities.
- Install a medical alert system and have your parents make certain they always wear their medical alert pendant. This equipment provides peace of mind for all parties in the fact that if you step away for several hours – or for overnights – you know that if your parent suffers a trip or fall or medical emergency all he needs to do is press a button and help will be available.
- Fit in time for daily exercise. A walk around the block. A few laps in a pool. Any kind of exercise that gets your heart pumping can help alleviate stress.
- Eat healthy meals. It may be tempting to drive through and pick up fast food for meals, especially when you’re pressed for time, but eating a well-balanced diet can help you keep your energy levels up.
- Try to practice patience. This is usually much easier said than done. Remember there will be good days and bad days for your parents – and in turn, for you – you need to remember they aren’t doing or saying anything in malice, they are likely coping with mental health issues and that can manifest itself in being difficult and trying. When they are no longer with you, it may be a comfort to know you’ve spent quality time with them even though it may not have always been easy or gratifying.
Whether becoming a caregiver was a decision that arose from thoughtful deliberation or one that came about as the result of a sudden illness, it is something that should be thought about and talked about with both your parents and other siblings to make certain the arrangement suits everyone involved.