Family Caregivers: Invisible Nurses.

written by Dana Herron

“I’m a 46-year-old controller for an international company. I’ve spent my life building my career and never imagined I’d be thinking about in home care, being a family caregiver, or changing diapers —especially not my mom’s diapers,” says Mark. Susan, a married mother of three teenagers who is also a family caregiver for her ailing father (he has heart problems and dementia) says, “I feel guilty for spending time with my husband and our children instead of always looking after my dad, but I know my children will be on their own before long, and I don’t want to miss these years with them. I’m torn between my dad and my own family. I often think about in home care or assisted living; but I don’t want to upset mom either.” Mark and Susan, like many baby boomers care for their elderly parents while trying to balance the other roles they still play in life: they are caregivers, professionals, parents, grandparents and children. For many adult children, the roles come with feelings of being overwhelmed. Many of us aren’t wired to be caregivers, but do so out of obligation. For others, the simple fact is that loved ones might need to hire caregivers to visit or live in the home. As a last resort, there are times our loved ones will need to transition into an assisted living or memory care community. Even if being a caregiver is not second nature to you, remembering these tips may help you find greater fulfillment and joy in the caregiving role. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Yes, you’re now the adult, and you want everything to be perfect. But it won’t be. Does it really matter if your dad’s pants and shirt don’t match? Does it really matter if your mom’s makeup isn’t as flawless as it once was? If there are important health issues or risks, address them, but learn to relax a little over the “small stuff” that will never matter in the long run. The time you spend with your aging parent will be more enjoyable if you follow this tip. Educate yourself on new normal Only by educating yourself about diseases or conditions your parents have will you be able to know what’s now normal for them and what’s not normal and needs your attention. Is what you see in your loved one a sign that it’s time to consider assisted living? Or is their limited independence still viable? Your parent’s new normal may include being out of breath after walking only a short distance or it may be that he or she needs help getting dressed or bathing. Knowing and accepting what to expect on a regular basis will help you be more active in your parent’s world rather than expecting them to function in your world. Have fun Being a caregiver can involve many routine tasks such as ensuring medications are sorted and put together for your parent to take or making certain that your parent is clean and fed. Focusing only on those activities can be draining, so why not have some fun along the way? At Woodland Ridge Assisted Living, we have a ridiculous amount of fun on a daily basis. You should try that too! Try talking with your parent about things you remember from your childhood or asking about things in your parent’s life that he or she may never have talked about before (his or her most daring adventure or first love)—there are stories your parent never would have shared with a younger you. Watch a favorite old movie or television show with your parent. Ask your parent trivia questions. Look through old family photographs with your parent. Listen to some music that you know your parent used to enjoy. All these activities can be prompts for conversations with your parent and some can be done while you’re also focused on the routine of caregiving such as helping your parent get dressed or get a shower. Ask for help Asking for help when you need it does not make you any less a caregiver and doesn’t mean that you love your parent any less. Assisted Living Communities like Woodland Ridge, and leading Home Care companies like CaraVita Home Care offer short term or respite care. Many resources are available to help you in your role as caregiver. You may find electronic resources that will assist with ensuring your parent takes medications appropriately. You may find that you need someone to help you make sure that your parent gets a shower every day or has a meal prepared. In-home care services can be tailored to fit your needs and can be scheduled at times and days that are best for you. You may want to consider a short-term respite stay in an assisted living community while you’re out of town or simply taking a break from your caregiving role. Or you may consider permanent placement in an assisted living community that will allow your parent to have increased social stimulation without being dependent solely on family members and caregivers for socialization. Using resources to help care for your loved one doesn’t mean you’re no longer in a caregiving role, but using resources can make you a more effective and less stressed caregiver. The role reversal can be tough—on both the parent and the adult child. Finding ways to embrace the nuances in your changing relationship and embrace your parent in his or her changing circumstances can bring more joy to the time you and your parent spend together.

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