As our loved ones age, the responsibility to care for them often falls to a family caregiver. I recently met with a gentleman that has been caring for his wife with early on-set Alzheimer's for the last five years, despite his own physical limitations. As we were discussing our services, I asked him about his goals for care. He paused, looked at me, and said, "My goal is not to collapse." In that moment, I felt such a sense of sadness and regret because I knew that this man had been struggling and I wished we could have been there to help before it became this hard.
It's the slow changes in a spouse or parent, as opposed to a more acute event, that can lead us down a path of not knowing when the appropriate time is to get help. When we live in separate households, as adult children often do, it can be even harder to manage growing needs from afar. In the beginning, you may drop off an occasional meal to your parents or take them to a doctor's appointment. Gradually you begin to take on more and more as you realize they are struggling to manage their medications or need help around the house. Often, the inevitable decline requires you to spend hours away from your own family and responsibilities. Because most family caregivers are unpaid, they can start to feel some financial strain, especially when caregiving takes them away from a paying job.
This steadily increasing impact on our own lives can lead to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, anger, and frustration. Feeling powerless to change the situation in the number on contributor to depression and burnout.
Whoever you are, my guess is that life is already busy. Add to that caring for an aging loved one, and yes, we are all at risk of feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and guilty because we recognize we can't do it all well. The worst part is that this level of stress can cause damage to relationships with the people you love the most.
It's important to seek a balance between caregiving and your own life.
- Set boundaries. Identify needs and determine what portion of those needs you can help with and still fulfill your responsibilities to yourself, your job, and your own children and spouse.
- Recognize the difference between wants and needs. Prioritize the needs; the wants can wait.
- Coordinate with other family members to share the duties.
- Be open to getting help, advocate for it and recognize the value in a professional caregiver.
In closing, I'm happy to report that the gentleman struggling to care for his wife now has a WONDERFUL caregiver that in just a short time has already made an impact on he and his wife's quality of life. And when the couple's son or daughter visit, instead of helping to manage the household, they can now enjoy quality time with their parents.
Don't wait to get the help you need. Home Instead can be the solution to help you and your loved ones age well!