It appears that everywhere you look lately, there are messages about prioritizing self-care, and with good reason.
We’ve had more challenges served up this year than ever, and they have only increased the level of stress for most of us.
One of the largest stressors in life is coming to terms with and making a plan for, care for your aging parent. And, if you are considering becoming a caretaker for your elderly parent, you are likely prioritizing their needs first. But remember, to be an effective caretaker, it is imperative that you put your own self-care first instead. It’s the old oxygen mask adage – you cannot take care of anyone else if you are not successfully taking care of yourself.
We often get calls from caretakers who have reached their breaking point because they did not foresee the following two main pitfalls that caretakers of elderly parents have a hard time envisioning from the start. Here is where we see caregivers get stuck:
- THE EMOTIONAL TOLL OF ROLL REVERSAL
As the child of an aging parent facing new needs, it’s natural to want to be the one who provides care. But, you need to be aware of the emotional toll it can take on you, and how to best safeguard your well being.
- After years of raising you, your parent will experience some guilt that you are now the caretaker. There may also be embarrassment involved with some of the new needs and things they can no longer do on their own.
- As a child of an elderly parent, it’s hard to see your parent age and lose independence. Being faced with this on a daily basis takes a lot out of people emotionally, as if they are watching their parent slip away and there is nothing they can do about it.
- Caring for your parent is the equivalent of a full-time job. Time allocated to your parent means time taken away from the rest of your life. Because of this, some caretakers develop resentment, and almost all caretakers develop stress.
- THE PHYSICAL TOLL OF CARING FOR YOUR ELDERLY PARENT
When you agree to become your parent’s caretaker, you are signing up for all of the facets of their lives you may have not thought of – and that can be more limiting than you originally realized. Now, their daily responsibilities will lie directly on your shoulders. From the smallest task like coming over to change a light bulb, to helping them if they have fallen, it’s going to be a huge toll on your physicality. Remember that you will have to:
- Take them to multiple doctor’s appointments a week, ask questions, take notes, remember medication regimens, and advocate for your parent.
- Do grocery shopping, house cleaning, and errands.
- You will be doing the physical work – If your parent requires lifting from bed to wheelchair, or in the bathroom, these physical needs will now be your responsibility to carry out safely. This can be physically exhausting and you will need to be in good physical condition.
- You will have less freedom and new time constraints. You will have to take time and vacation off of work, away from your spouse, family, and friends, and will not be able to leave town on vacations like you once perhaps did.
These are just a few examples of overwhelm that we hear about when caretakers call us. They feel distressed by these new responsibilities, which are only added to their existing ones. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and no one can prepare for that overnight.
Our self-care tips?
- Meet your own healthcare needs first
- Do not put off your own doctor appointments
- Get plenty of exercise
- Meet your own nutritional needs
- Get the sleep you require.
- Nurture your relationships
- Make time for spouses, kids, family, friends and hobbies.
- Join a caregiver support group
- Hearing experiences from others in the same boat can be very validating.
If the above seems impossible to include along with your caretaking responsibilities, then it’s time to consider the golden rule of self-care: The best self-care you can give yourself is to ask for help.
When burnt-out caregivers of their parents call us, they often say, “I feel no one will care for my parent as well as I can, so I must do this myself.” We understand how you feel! We also disagree. This is what we are here to do. We are here to work with you in a compassionate way with your parent and develop the best in-home care plan for their unique dynamic. So you can both be supported, and have the best quality of life. Call us at 480-588-2650 for more information.