Taking on the Role of Caregiver
When we are young our parents and grandparents are our protectors. They take care of our basic needs. We depend on them to feed us, keep us clean, and keep us safe. As we age, our parents and grandparents age too. We may find ourselves in a position where we have to take care of our elderly loved ones. Now we need to make sure their needs are met.
It can be a very tense situation if everyone in your family isn’t on the same page when developing a care plan for your elderly loved one. If they don’t have a living will or a POA named, sometimes this can lead to conflict among family. Everyone may have strong feelings about what is the best solution. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives we may miss the signs that our loved one is declining. It’s important to have a level head and to calmly talk about what to do to ensure your loved one is getting the care they need. If it’s going to be a heated conversation, it’s best to have the discussion without your loved one present, so they don’t get upset. Ultimately, you will all need to find a way to agree because your loved one will need you all to be there for them.
If our loved one is able to stay at home with assistance, some of us may get a healthcare worker to come in to care for them. Other people may decide to take on the role of caregiver themselves. The day to day reality of taking care of an elderly relative may be different than you envisioned. We already have our own children, our careers, our spouses, and our homes to care for. Adding the responsibility of being a caregiver to your life will take some adjusting and schedule juggling.
If you are going to be your elderly loved one’s primary care giver, you need to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself. Caring for an elderly loved one requires patience and compassion. Knowing our loved one is depending on us to help maintain their quality of life is a huge responsibility. You have to be able to help them while making sure they still retain their dignity. Seeing our loved ones at their most vulnerable will take some getting used to. Your relationship will change. They’re going to depend on you. Remember, it’s not going to be easy for your loved one either. Losing our independence, even in the smallest ways is frustrating. Be patient and be kind. When taking care of adults, it’s important to remember they are adults and need to be treated as adults. Rule number one in care giving for an elder is to treat them with respect.
You should know you aren’t alone. Many folks are now taking care of their parents. Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted sometimes is normal. You want to make sure you work to prevent caregiver burnout. If you are the primary caregiver you have to make sure you are taking care of yourself first. Some days it will seem like you have nothing left for yourself after caring for another person all day. Remember, if the plane is going down, you put your own oxygen mask on first, then help the others. You aren’t going to be able to take care of your loved one if you are too exhausted to function. Be patient with yourself. Take advantage of respite services. Join a caregiver’s support group. Ask other family members to help you if you need a break. Do something for you. Check Thrive Penobscot’s In home Support page for resources. It’s important for caregivers to be at their best. Taking time to recharge your batteries is necessary. It’s the only way you will be able to properly care for another person. Making the choice to be a care giver is a huge decision, but the rewards are also huge.