Four-fifths of elderly Americans in need of daily assistance live at home rather than in a retirement facility. While around nine percent of them rely solely on professional, paid, care, the vast majority get help from relatives and other loved ones. Adult children — who are quite often over 65 themselves — take on a large portion of this responsibility.
How do you cope?
Allow Your Parent To Contribute
First things first, and this one is really especially for people whose parents live with them in their home, and who may still have minor children as well. It's easy to go into full caregiver mode, thinking you have to take care of absolutely everything, and to burn yourself out that way. Many elders who need day-to-day assistance are very sound of mind as well as still able to do many things — whether it's helping children with homework, doing some washing up, knitting, or doing genealogy research. If this is your situation and your parent is eager to be of help, please don't get in their way or tell them "I'll do that". More than that, don't "push" care on them when they can handle something themselves; most people want to be as independent as they can.
Give Each Other Space
Living together, or even "just" spending an awful lot of time together in an elder-caregiver context, can easily lead to social cabin fever. If your elderly parent lives with you, make sure they have their own space, and you have yours, to retreat to when you're both going a little crazy.
Be Realistic About Your Abilities — And Your Needs
You may, for instance, be able to accompany your parent to medical appointments, get their medication from the pharmacy, and remind them to take it, but need help with housecleaning and would prefer it if your sibling took your mother to see her older brother. You may be able to give your bedridden parent sponge baths, but need professional help to get them to the toilet. You may be able to care for your parent with Alzheimer's in the evening, but need a professional while you are at work — and so on.
Don't neglect your own needs either, and those needs are bound to include time away from your caregiving role, time for yourself, as well as physical rest. Rather than this making you a bad caregiver, it makes you a caregiver who can continue offering care.
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