Becoming a caregiver to parents involves major changes for all concerned – physically, emotionally, socially and financially. Learning to cope with the changes in a healthy way is important to ensure you and your aging parents can live in a mutually loving and giving relationship. caregiving changes the roles, responsibilities and feelings within the family and can be complicated.
Caregiving involves difficult decisions which should be handled with as much thought and discussion as possible. Do not jump into drastic changes, like having your parent move into your home, because you feel guilty or pressured, or as a “quick fix.” Be realistic about your own abilities, desires and limitations, as well as those of your family members. Weigh the options carefully.
Consider these issues as you take on an increased role in the care of your parent(s):
- What can your parents reasonably expect from you?
- What can you reasonably expect from your parents?
- Listening is an important part of caring. Listen to your parents. You may be one of the few people in their life who does.
- Independence is a key component of mental and physical health. Encourage and support your parents’ independence.
- Let your parents know about community services or assistance available to them so they can make informed choices for themselves.
- Encourage your parents to discuss sensitive issues, like disability, long term care homes, even dying; if and when they seem interested in such discussions.
- Learn what the legal system has to offer you and your parents. Options like a power of attorney may help to manage your parents’ finances and their future.
As mentioned last week, caring for the caregiver is imperative, so what can you do for yourself?
- To cope well, it helps to separate the “person” (your parent) from the “process” (normal aging).
- Beware of stereotypes -both you and your parent need to be on guard against the myth that old age is an illness. This is far from true. Most seniors are well, active and mentally fit.
- You may find yourself feeling trapped and guilty as you try to juggle the multiple demands, stresses and responsibilities of your new caregiving situation. This can threaten not only your health, but your marriage, job,relationship with your children, and financial security. Be on the lookout for signs of stress and burnout. Symptoms may include: depression, constant fatigue, poor concentration, hostility, low self-esteem and/or physical illness.
- You may need to pay more attention to your own independence. Do not become too involved in your parents’ day-to-day activities at the expense of your own independence. Talk to them honestly and confidently about your needs and feelings while listening to and respecting what they have to say about theirs.
- Caregivers often lack role models. Joining a caregiver group where you can share ideas, information, concerns and support can be invaluable. A caregiver group can also help you develop skills such as assertiveness and stress management, and teach you how to express your feelings. Occasionally just the opportunity to “vent” without judgement is invaluable.If you are a caregiver in the Belleville or Deseronto area, you can call us at Community Care for South Hastings and we can help with connections to community home support services that can make your life and that of your loved one’s much easier to manage. Our contact information is below.Information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert- Executive Director of Community Care for South Hastings Inc., 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at www.ccsh.ca, follow our Facebook page, email me at email@example.com, or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and assistance. Community Care is a proud United Way member agency. Funding in part from the South East Local Health Integration Network.