It’s an understatement that being a caregiver for an elderly loved one is just a part of taking care of the elderly. It can be an emotionally and mentally stressful time-consuming part of life. And in general, by the time you accept that you are in the role of “primary caregiver”, the need to help your elderly parent is already advanced. So you usually have some “catch up work” to do so you can establish some controls over your aging parent’s medical situation, finances and lifestyle.
In many cases neither the caregiver or the one being cared for discussed the caregiving scenario or volunteered to be a part of the caregiving situation. The elderly individual receiving the help can become hostile and resistant to the changes in lifestyle that the caregiver may need to implement. When the caregiving involves parents, there are those relationships, responses and roles that have been in place for what seems like forever. But, now you are the caregiver and the system that has been built seems to have dissolved. This reversal of roles for parents and children is perhaps one of the hardest changes to adjust to.
In the beginning, the stress seems to come from all directions: the elderly individual, the expectations of other siblings and family members, and even from your own high set of standards. You may deeply feel the need to adopt the approach “nothing but the best is good enough for my mommy or daddy.” While it is important to hold high the standard for quality of care, comfort, and dignity, being a caregiver is all about balance. For example, you may feel that elderly parents deserve your attention 24/7 since this is how you were cared for-especially when you had a great level of need. However, you must also attend to your own job, your kids, your spouse, your housework and yourself. So reasonable expectations and balance are needed.
So right up front, it’s good to recognize and accept that as you settle into the job of primary caregiver for an aging parent, there is going to be an increase in stress in your life. Try to include trusted members of your inner circle in the caregiving process. A sibling or close friend can alleviate at least some of the added stress so that it is not loaded onto you alone. Some ways that those trusted individuals could help is by freeing up your time so that you can focus on the elderly loved one. For example, they could care for your children when you are at an appointment with the elderly individual or they could take care of small errands so you can focus on a caregiving task that is the priority. Caring for an elderly loved one is a tremendous task to take on alone so include those trusted partners when you can to make the experience more manageable.
Wishing you well on your caregiving journey. If you want to learn more about caregiving and connect with others going through a similar journey, be sure to check out our articles at www.laelderly.org and join the LA Elderly group on Facebook.