5 Tips for Having a Life While Caring for an Elderly Parent
Caring for an elderly parent can be difficult: it can sometimes feel like you’ve got a full-time job on top of any other work you do, including caring for your own children. Yet it’s a situation that a lot of us find ourselves in as our parents get older, in fact according to recent statistics, over a 1/4 of adult children provide some form of care for an elderly parent or in-law.
While being a caregiver can be very rewarding, it can be exhausting too. Sometimes it can feel as though you don’t have a life of your own, which can lead to stress and burnout.
So how can you balance the needs of your ageing parents or in-laws with your own needs? How can you ensure that you still get to have a life of your own while helping those who helped you when you were a child?
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at a few different actionable ways that you can still get time to yourself and a life of your own while providing care. Are you ready to learn more and reclaim some time for yourself? Then keep reading.
1. Create a Team of People to Help You Care for Your Elderly Parent
As much as caregiving might seem like an independent effort, you need to have a team of people working with you. Even if they aren’t directly caring for the parent with you, they’re there to offer support and to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
Other Family Members
Bringing other family members into caring for your elderly parent is one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed. You could each take on a different part of the caring strategy so that none of you have to take too much time off work and none of you get stressed and burn out.
For instance, one family member could help manage the financial aspects of long-term care. Another person could help your parents by driving them to medical appointments and ensuring that they get the care they need.
There’s another aspect to bringing other family members in to help too: you’ll all be able to rely on each other for mutual support. According to one study, mutual support groups like these can help you take care of yourself while helping others and help you deal with the stress of medical problems, etc.
Elder Law Lawyer
It can be useful to bring in an elder law lawyer early on during your caregiving experience. These experts can help you plan for the financial and legal implications of caring for ageing parents. This means that you will be less likely to get caught up in financial or legal trouble further down the road.
If you don’t have a large family who can help you or not everyone is willing to help, professional carers can step in to ensure that you don’t take on the full responsibility of caring alone. Even if they only care for your parents one day per week, that’s one day where you can take more care of yourself.
2. Take Time Out to Focus On Your Mental Health
Knowing how to manage stress while caring for parents, especially parents with dementia, is vital. Watching a parent struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and other issues is very tough, and you’ll probably need to step up your self-care.
It can be difficult to find the time to step away from your role as a carer. When you feel like you need a break, it’s time to ask a professional or another relative to step in for a while so you can focus on yourself. Let’s take a look at some ways you can give your self-care a boost.
When caring for a parent at home, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed by your fears of the future. Maybe you’re scared of losing your parent, maybe you’re worried that their health problems will get worse; or maybe you just want things to go back to the way they used to be.
Focusing on the here and now is a vital part of being a carer. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on what is real, right now. If this is your first time experimenting with mindfulness, we’d recommend seeking out a teacher or checking out some of the great mindfulness apps that are available on Android and iOS.
Allow Yourself to Vent
This is where that mutual support group that we mentioned earlier comes in. Don’t feel that you can’t express your frustrations about being a carer: as long as you do it with appropriate people, it’s expected and acceptable to talk about the difficulties of caring. You don’t have to be a martyr and suffer in silence: these frustrations are normal.
Show Yourself Some Love
You may show your elderly parent love all day long but do you show it to yourself too? Take the time to do something you enjoy like going for a long walk, having a bubble bath, or cooking your favourite meal.
You should also make sure that you eat enough, that you drink plenty of water, and that you’re getting enough sleep. If your needs aren’t fulfilled, you won’t be as good at caring for other people’s.
3. Make a List of Your Goals
Caring can be all-consuming. It’s up to you to make sure that you’re able to live your life while keeping your parent’s quality of life high too. It’s easy to forget about what you want to do while caring, so make a list!
Human brains are wired to love ordering tasks: while this works great for your daily to-do list, it also helps to make a list of the things you want to do over longer timespans. Is there a trip that you really want to take or a course you want to take? Maybe you want to learn a new skill.
Whatever it is that you want to do, write it down. Then try to take the time out to achieve your goals.
When you feel a little lost and overwhelmed, having a plan for the future is great. Try to still follow your life goals.
4. Set Boundaries
When you’re caring for a family member, you’ve got so many different additional connections to consider, which means that it’s easy to not set boundaries and end up never taking care of yourself. If you want to have a life while caring for ageing parents, you need to be able to set boundaries with them, no matter how close you are to them.
This is especially important if you’re still working as well as caring for your parent.
We’d recommend letting them know that while they’re very important to you, you do still need to work. If you are working from home, let them know that if you’ve got your headphones on or the door to your office shut, you’re working and won’t be able to help them except in an emergency.
If you’re still going into work, then let them know that they shouldn’t phone you at work unless it’s an emergency.
There are, of course, other boundaries that you can set with your parents. Parents that are dealing with dementia may find it difficult to follow these boundaries, so gently remind them of them if they forget.
5. Take Care Not to Get Overwhelmed
There is sometimes a level of “feature creep” when it comes to being a carer. You may start out only cooking for your elderly parent and find that, with time, you’re taking care of all cleaning, their legal affairs, and everything else. This robs them of their independence and makes it much more likely that you’ll get overwhelmed.
Where it’s still possible for your parent to do something, let them do it. Where it isn’t, you need to determine whether you can do it or whether you should hire a professional or ask another family member to step in.
Make sure that you don’t start taking on more tasks than you can handle. There’s no shame in recognizing where your limits lie. It doesn’t make you any less of a carer.
How We Can Make it Easier to Care for An Elderly Parent
Caring for an elderly parent is often very difficult yet it’s a responsibility that many of us will take on. Our personal alert solutions can help your parent get help in an emergency, which can give you a lot of peace of mind and the ability to take a step back when you need to.
For more information about buying one of our devices, take a look at our order page or get in contact with us.