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Ten Tips for Caregivers: When the Caregiver Is You . . . and You’re Caring for a Parent

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73b5bf694bc12e7bdcd3b22fa116958e_w640Care giving for an aging or elderly parent is usually a fairly long-term proposition that may evolve from just checking in every day to actually moving in. Chances are, however, that your parent’s needs will eventually escalate to more than you can safely handle on your own. That’s why it is so important to have a discussion early on about how both of you will know it’s time for a move to long-term care. If you reach agreement when life is relatively calm, it will much easier for you to take the next step when it’s necessary.

In the meantime, here are 10 tips for you to keep in mind for your own well being as you care for your parent.

1. Lead as much of a balanced life as circumstances allow.

2. Make sure you stay healthy. Eat well and get enough sleep.

3. Be aware that depression goes along with long-term care giving. Exercise will help ward off the blues. You may benefit from professional counseling as well.

4. If your parent is gravely ill, you may be grieving over the reality of slowly losing him or her. Seek emotional support from family and friends. Avoid emotional isolation.

5. Avoid physical isolation, too. You may find yourself homebound along with your parent. If you can’t get out regularly, invite people to drop by. Have family and friends over for potluck meals and holiday celebrations.

6. It’s difficult to do, but try to keep any personal issues separate from your care giving responsibilities. Stress can damage the relationship between you and your parent.

7. Your parent needs to have as much autonomy and independence as possible. It’s important for him or her to make decisions (like deciding what to have for lunch) and have some meaningful activity (like folding the clothes) that contribute to home life. These things may seem insignificant, but they greatly enhance quality of life.

8. A cognitively impaired person requires a set routine, but within that routine, he or she needs still some meaning and purpose to ward off depression.

9. It’s important not to encourage a role reversal. Your parent has lived a life. Respect that and preserve the relationship.

10. If your parent refuses to eat regardless of what you do, take it clinically not personally. Get a medical evaluation. Having no appetite could be a precursor to an acute illness.

If you need additional help and have financial constraints, Medicaid will assess your parent’s requirements and, if he or she qualifies, will provide assistance. Some examples of assistance – regardless of ability to pay – include home health care, adult day care, Meals on Wheels, housekeeping and home health companion services.

Were these tips useful for you? The Bethany Village staff welcomes your comments. Let us know how you are getting along with care giving for your parent(s).

Written by Bethany Lutheran Village

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