As the population ages at a rapid rate, more and more people are finding themselves in the position of caregiver, often while still raising families of their own. Caring for elderly, sick relatives is not an easy task. Their health will only continue to decline over time, and their needs and dependence on you will increase. Many of us feel an obligation to provide this care because our parents cared for us when we were young, but to say these are two very different situations is an understatement if there ever was one. And of course, most of us are motivated by love as well. If you are finding this situation much more stressful than you could have anticipated, you are not alone. Here are just a few tips to help you cope with this situation better.
Don’t Neglect Yourself!
This is one tip that you have probably heard ad nauseum, but there is a reason—it is absolutely crucial so I can’t just skip over it. Because your loved one’s needs are so great, it is easy to get swallowed whole by them. You neglect your own physical and mental health, all the while feeling guilty for wanting to tend to your own needs. This guilt is a common problem for caregivers, but completely unwarranted. It is easy to tell you not to feel it, but you probably still will. The trick is doing what you need to do in spite of it.
There is nothing noble about totally sacrificing one life to tend to another. Be honest with yourself about what is going on with you here. Are you performing the role of the selfless caregiver for other people? Are you trying to control every aspect of care, and not allowing others to help you?
Know Your Limits
It is important you establish limits to what you are willing, and capable of doing. Unless you are a health care professional, there are certain aspects of caregiving that are best left to trained professionals. Don’t neglect your children or your marriage. Be careful of doing things for your loved one that they are capable of doing themselves—the more you do for them, the more they will let you do for them. Don’t let guilt get in the way of maintaining a proper balance in your life.
Get Help if You Really Need It
Many people feel it is ‘wrong’ to let ‘strangers’ take care of their loved ones; because your parents took care of you, you feel it is your duty to take care of them. But, caring for children is very different. They are healthy, and as time goes on, their dependence on you will lessen. There is great joy in having children. There is not much joy in the stresses of caregiving.
There is no shame in getting help, and if you really feel like you need it, you have to find a way to get it. Start exploring in-home care options . If your loved one’s health has declined significantly, you may need to start considering full-time care in a skilled nursing facility. Maybe you promised you would never put your loved one in a home, but that is a promise that is not always possible to keep.
I don’t think most of us realize how consuming elder care is until we are actually in the thick of it. It is one thing tending to a parent who is a bit forgetful, and doing simple things for them, like cleaning up their house and cooking them some meals, and quite another to care for someone whose advancing dementia means they cannot be left alone for a second, or is bedridden and can’t do anything for themselves. You did your best in honoring the spirit of it, and at the end of the day, that is the best we can really do. Getting assistance is often the best thing not only for you, but your loved one as well. Remember that.