As your parents get older, they can start to need more care, which a lot of people will try to manage within the family for as long as possible.
Looking after your parents can be physically and emotionally draining, and it’s imperative that you make looking after yourself a priority, too; otherwise, you run the risk of burning out.
One of the most important ways that you can help yourself when caring for the elderly is to start preparing as early as possible.
It’s essential that you have conversations with your parents about how they would like to be cared for as early as possible. It’s an emotional and difficult discussion to have, and it isn’t one that is likely to be resolved in just one conversation. It’s important to give yourself and your parents the time to come to an agreement about the care that everyone is happy with so that when the time comes, you all know what to expect.
You can also take some practical steps to ensure that you are prepared such as ensuring that a power of attorney is completed and that you’ve resolved any financial issues. You should also familiarize yourself with the things that are important for keeping your parents happy and healthy.
Learn your limits
It can be tempting to run yourself into the ground giving your parents everything that they need, but this won’t help them in the long run. If you burn yourself out, then you won’t be able to help them at all.
Pay attention to how you are feeling, and when you start to feel as though you are reaching your limit, stop.
Share the load
Make a list of all of the tasks that need to be completed, and share them out amongst all of the willing members of the family. This will ensure that everyone is doing their bit, and no one person is bearing too much of the responsibility.
If you have difficulty with setting boundaries and often end up taking on too much, it’s worth addressing this issue early on before you become overwhelmed.
If you can’t set boundaries on your own, then this is something that a therapist can help you with.
Look out for signs of caregiver stress
Keep an eye on yourself for signs of caregiver stress such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in eating habits
- Increased drinking or smoking
- Health issues
If you start to notice these signs, then it’s important that you take a break and reassess how much of the caring responsibility you have taken on.
Stay engaged in your own life
Be sure to keep doing the things in your own life that make you happy. Make time to see your friends, and take time for yourself to relax. Make eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise a priority. Self-care becomes all the more important if you are also caring for someone else.