Though providing care for an aging parent may start as a sprint, it often becomes a marathon. Perhaps an injury or illness sends you scrambling for emergency care, but you soon realize that your senior won’t recover fully. Instead, she’ll need ongoing and likely, increasing, care. Or maybe you get a bit more warning; you notice your parent’s declining health and put a care plan in place over several months.
Either way, as time goes on, caring for an aging family member can become overwhelming. Your other day-to-day responsibilities to work, family, and community continue. Plus, you need to carve out at least a little time to maintain your own health and well-being. To keep life in balance, try the three practical tips.
1. Focus On Your Relationship
Watching someone you love lose their ability to do the things they once enjoyed can be emotionally draining – and providing the physical care needed to meet their basic needs can be physically exhausting. To ease the strain, take time to focus on your relationship, rather than just the caregiving.
Find simple ways to do the things you’ve always enjoyed together, whether that’s listening to music, sitting outside on a beautiful day, or doing some aspect of a favorite hobby. Remember that your loved one is also experiencing a sense of loss. Involving him in whatever small decisions or tasks he can handle keeps him engaged and feeling needed. And focusing on shared interests or memories lets both of you reconnect on a more personal level.
2. Know Your Limits
It’s important to recognize when you’ve reached your limit. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to “H-A-L-T.” This tried-and-true formula is a reminder to notice whether you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. If you can pinpoint the cause of your stress, it’s easier to get the care you need.
Be sure to make time for your other relationships, for exercise, and for some alone time. A few quiet moments for meditation, prayer, or positive thinking can go a long way toward restoring your peace of mind. Lowering your expectations also helps. Rather than letting an untidy house or your senior’s new limitations upset you, try to simplify, accept imperfection, and move on.
3. Ask for Help
Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. If finances are a concern, discuss them openly with other family members. Family and friends may also be able to pitch in with meals and transportation.
Also be sure to explore the many respite care options available. Adult day care centers allow seniors to get out of the house and interact with their peers for several hours, while some residential facilities offer care overnight or for few a days at a time.
You can also hire an in-home caregiver for anything from a few hours a week to several hours every day. By delegating some of the tougher aspects of care to a caregiver, you’ll have more energy left to enjoy the good times with your loved one.