I recently met with Karen Moorehead, the owner of Elderlink Home Care, Inc and she agreed to write a guest post. Aging in place is a familiar buzzword today, but many people don’t know what it really means until there is a crisis in their own life or a dear one’s life and assistance is needed to help support independent or supported living in a home setting. Karen is passionate about helping seniors achieve their goals of aging in place. Elderlink has been serving seniors throughout the Denver-metro area since 1988.
Sometime, maybe years ago, when your parents were younger and healthier, you may have made a promise that you would always take care of them. You may have made the promise to your parents or just to yourself. It was easy when taking care of them meant one to two visits a week, taking them to appointments and helping with things around the house. Now as your parents are aging and their needs are increasing, you will need to figure out if you are able to keep that promise and exactly what it will mean to you.
Coming to the realization that your parent may need more care than you are able to give is not easy. You may feel an enormous sense of guilt and even failure for your inability to care for your aging parent. Are you doing enough? Can you do it all? If you are not able to be the sole caregiver for your mom or dad and have to arrange for outside help, those guilty feelings can be magnified. Hiring outside help for your parents may not have been what you had in mind when you made your promise, but is important not to put off doing what is best for your parents because of feelings of guilt.
Being a caregiver requires a large investment of both time and emotion. Today’s sandwich generation often has children, maybe even grandchildren at home and is likely to still be working. Being a caregiver for your parent may not be a possibility. The ability to understand your limits and to set limits with your parents is crucial. If you do not look after your own health and wellbeing, you will not be able to help your parents. Looking at it this way, you can see that it is your responsibility to create a balance between your interests and the interests of your parents.
Acknowledge your feelings of guilt and other emotions that usually accompany it. Emotions such as anger, resentment and stress are common among caregivers. Pay attention to which feelings may be unjustified, or just a result of you putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. A good stress-reducing tool is to talk with other caregivers, maybe join a support group. When people feel safe, as they often do in a group, they let down their guard. They can admit that they feel the same way. Learn to be kind to yourself. There will be good days and bad days.
Recognize that we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are better suited towards caregiving and empathy; others might be better at organization, keeping paperwork and finances in order and tasks around the house. If you have siblings, encourage your siblings to help in ways that best utilize their strengths. Do what you can to help and don’t beat yourself up for everything you can’t do.
Your parents cared for you, it’s natural that you want to care for them. And, yes, you promised to take care of your parents. That doesn’t mean you promised to provide them with all of the care they need yourself, it only means that you will ensure that all of their needs are being met. Arranging care for your parents to ensure that all of their needs are being met is honoring the spirit of your promise.