Most people will need to provide or arrange care for their parents at some point in their lives. According to a 2015 AARP report, more than 34 million Americans provide unpaid care each year to adults age 50 or older. As the elderly population grows, the number of home caregivers in the U.S. will likely grow as well. If you’re caring for elderly parents, you may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility. Taking care of a loved one at home is hard work, but you’re not alone. Millions of people are also caring for their aging parents at home, and they understand the challenges that happen along the way. Here are five tips to maintain your health and well-being while caring for aging parents:
1. Determine How Much Care Is Needed
Being a home caregiver is difficult work, so it’s essential that you have a plan in place. The first step in taking care of your aging parent is to determine how much care they currently need. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a long list of tasks, so take some time to assess your parent’s overall level of functioning to get a better idea of the full picture.
The best way to assess the level of care needed is to write a list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks your parent requires help with. Every time you or someone else helps your parent with something, add it to the list. This includes activities of daily living, chores around the home, and mobility or transportation assistance.
After about a week, you’ll have a good understanding of what your parent needs help with and when. Then, you can write daily to-do lists and schedule your day so that you’re available to help when you’re needed.
2. Find Balance
Balancing your responsibilities as a home caregiver, a parent, an employee, and any other role you have can be difficult, especially when you first start caring for elderly parents. You may find yourself having to sacrifice personal time to take care of your loved ones.
Although there are only so many hours in a day, it’s important that you find time for yourself. If you don’t take care of your physical and mental health, the quality of care you can offer your parent will decline. Try to spend time with friends or other family members at least once a week, and engage in hobbies for at least a few minutes every day. If you write out your schedule for your tasks as a caregiver, try including leisure time in the schedule. When it’s pre-planned, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Also, recognize the need to ask for help when your other responsibilities pile up. No one can do everything on their own, and reaching out to others is a great way to maintain a healthy balance.
3. Accept Limitations
Accepting both your own and your parent’s limitations is a major part of finding peace as a home caregiver. Everyone has a limit for how much they can offer before they burn out, and you should try to figure out what your limit is before you actually get there. Be honest and realistic with yourself about how much you can do for your aging parent. When you get close to your limit, be proactive and find ways to get assistance.
Recognizing that your parent also has limitations will help you maintain a healthy relationship with them. It’s tough to watch a loved one’s health decline, but if they need care at home, it means they can’t do everything they used to do. Try to accept your parent for the stage they’re in right now and avoid getting frustrated if they don’t act the way they once did.
4. Get Support When Caring for Elderly Parents
The best thing you can do as a home caregiver is find extra help and support. Not only does this benefit your own mental health and life balance, but it can also be good for your loved one.
When other people take part in your parent’s care, it provides your parent with more people to talk to and more variety in their day. Other caregivers can share different skills, hobbies, or stories with your loved one, which is a great opportunity for enrichment. If your loved one doesn’t leave home often, having a variety of people stop by can be especially valuable.
If you have siblings, cousins, or other family members nearby, they may be willing to share some of the caregiver responsibilities. Even if they can’t directly help take care of the aging family member, they could run errands or do chores in the senior’s home.
Here are some other options for finding support as a home caregiver:
- Adult day programs
- Hired home caregivers
- Volunteer senior companion programs
- Respite care services
- Meal delivery services
Your state’s Department on Aging can be a helpful resource for finding services near your home.
Many departments employ caregiving specialists whose job is to connect caregivers with local organizations that can help.
5. Find Financial Resources to Help When Caring for Elderly Parents
Caring for aging parents is expensive. According to an AARP study, the average family caregiver spends about $7,000 of their own money each year on expenses for their aging loved one. For caregivers who live more than an hour from the care recipient, the average cost rises to $12,000.
Fortunately, there are lots of financial resources that can help. The National Council on Aging offers a service called BenefitsCheckUp that allows you to easily search for benefit programs that may apply to you. They search for the following types of programs and benefits:
- Income assistance
- Home and utility costs
- Tax relief
- Veteran benefits
You can also look into your state’s Medicaid program to make sure your loved one is getting as much coverage as possible. Most states give money to seniors to hire a home caregiver as part of their Medicaid coverage, and some states will allow seniors to hire family members instead of professional caregivers.
Caring for elderly parents at home is an incredibly selfless, compassionate decision. It’s not easy work, so you should make sure you continue to take care of yourself and get help from family, friends, community programs, and other service providers.
Counseling is one of the best ways for your senior loved one to maintain their quality of life. A mental health therapist can provide your parent with extra support as they face the challenges of aging. Blue Moon Senior Counseling is offering Tele-therapy so that the therapy process is as easy and accessible as possible.
You don’t have to care for your aging parent all on your own. Contact Blue Moon Senior Counseling today to set up therapy services for your loved one.