Defining a Healthy Approach to Caregiving

by Lauren Caggiano

The 65-and-older population grew by over a third (34.2% or 13,787,044) during the past decade, and by 3.2% (1,688,924) from 2018 to 2019. That means that America is becoming grayer with each passing day. If they don’t need help already, many Baby Boomers will need an extra hand sooner than later.

For a variety of reasons, children of aging parents might choose to keep them at home. As long as everyone is in agreement, keeping aging parents at home can be a beautiful thing. But at the same time, keep in mind that senior care is one of the toughest and most stressful jobs and can lead to burnout if not addressed.

That’s why if you’re taking on this responsibility, it’s important to take the necessary steps to reduce the inherent burden of this work and decrease stress. Here are 4 ways to maintain a healthy approach to caregiving:

Understand the scope of needs.

When you feel weighed down by a long list of caregiving duties, you’re so focused on the here and now that you’re not seeing the big picture. When this happens, you need to take a step back to determine how much care your parent(s) need(s).

To that end, it’s recommended to create a list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks so you have a visual representation of the extent of their needs. Try to segment each task out by time of day/night so you can have an idea about how much supervision is needed and at which times of day. If the load is too much for you to realistically handle, it might be time to consult with a professional. Remember that overdoing it can negatively impact your own health and you can’t help others if you yourself are not well.

Get Help with Caregiving

Of course, the best approach is to get in front of the situation. Even if you feel like you can handle the current load, it’s wise to plan ahead. Potential sources of help include adult day programs, in-home care, ordering groceries online, volunteer senior companion services, Meals on Wheels and even asking friends and family for assistance.

Share the Load

You might be doing such a great job that, from the outside, it looks like you’re handling all of the hard work with ease. Sometimes people don’t pick up on the fact that you’re struggling until it’s too late. That’s why it’s important to speak up. If you have siblings or other relatives who can lend a hand, don’t be afraid to approach them. Chances are they’ll be happy to lighten your load. Just be specific about your expectations so everyone’s on the same page.

 Reduce the Financial Burden

It’s no secret that caregiving can also place a significant financial burden on your family. Still, you don’t have to go it alone. There are resources from the government and private organizations that can help in this way. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging and they can help you explore options.

Bottom line: When you're taking care of a loved one, make time to care for yourself, too. You’ll never regret it, and your parent(s) will benefit from a caregiver who’s centered and fully present.

 

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