For some individuals, caring for an aging parent is a rewarding experience and a chance for them to give back to the person who may have played a vital role in their lives. Caring for an aging relative whose cognitive abilities or personality is changing can quickly take its toll on the caregiver and make her feel unappreciated.
It is not uncommon for a caregiver to feel they are being taken advantage of or that the time and effort they put into caring for an aging relative isn’t valued by other family members. These feelings, while not easy to address for the caregiver, are common and should be addressed. There are ways to cope with the feelings of depression and the stress that is inherent with being a caregiver.
Put Your Feelings Into Perspective
Caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other illness that diminishes their mental capacity will bring with it personality changes that may be difficult to cope with. Try to keep in mind that their anger or disorientation is a factor of their illness, not an indication of their feelings toward you or the care you’re providing. On the other hand, caring for a relative or senior with full cognitive abilities may simply be frustrated. Don’t internalize your feelings of dismay at the way they behave. Instead, remember the love and attention you share is likely to have great value in the life of the one you are caring for.
Take Care Of Yourself
There will come a time when you simply need to step back and take time away from caregiving. It will likely be a difficult challenge to announce that you need to take care of yourself, but it’s crucial to your physical and mental well-being that you do so. Caregiver burnout is a real side effect of being the sole individual responsible for taking care of an aging relative. This can be even more difficult if you’re not only taking care of aging parents but raising your own family and pursuing your career at the same time. Seek out others who can relieve you for an hour, a day or even a weekend and do something fun for yourself. Also enlist others to help with daily duties at home so you aren’t so overloaded. You’ll come back a bit more refreshed and ready to handle the tasks at hand.
Ask For Outside Support
Along the same lines of taking care of yourself is your ability to ask for help. Calling upon medical professionals or family members is necessary not only for your well-being but for the well-being of your relative. Seek out caregiver support groups or groups from which your relatives may benefit such as an Alzheimer’s Support Group. Search out federal, state and local organizations that provide assistance and support for the aging. Don’t be afraid to call on the services of a personal in-home caregiver when the need arises. If you’re dealing with a parent that is healthy mentally but is having other health or balance issues, take time to age proof the house and to install a home medical alert device as a way to support them when you’ve gone home at night.
Caregiving can be a time-consuming and mentally draining task, but the ability to spend quality time with your aging relative could be one that brings with it memories that will last a lifetime.