It’s not uncommon for adult children to become caregivers for their aging parents, or spouses caring for one another.
Being a caregiver is not always an easy — or rewarding — job. Regardless of your circumstances, being the best caregiver while maintaining your needs is the key to your success.
What are some types of caregiving?
There are many kinds of caregivers. Physicians, nurses, and care coordinators are all caregivers. There are other types of caregivers, like adult children, parents, and spouses. There is a broad spectrum of levels of care one provides. It may be being there ‘just in case’ an elderly parent needs assistance. Or it could involve more supervision for a parent with early onset dementia. Some caregivers provide extensive care such as basic daily needs like, bathing, grooming, assistance with the bathroom, feeding, etc. Regardless of the level of care you provide, your role can take a toll on you.
When am I considered a caregiver?
It’s a complicated thing to define. As your loved one ages, they have a harder time getting to the store or running an errand and might reach out to you for help. Or your loved one might have a chronic condition, and that typically means they’ll need help managing their healthcare.
As your loved one continues to age, your responsibilities likely increase. Somewhere along the line, you’ll likely become a caregiver.
How do caregivers support their loved ones while also maintaining boundaries?
Being a caregiver is a complicated role to fill. Often, you have your own responsibilities and own families to care for. You want to be there for everyone, but there isn’t enough time for everything and burnout is always looming. Here are a few tips to help you maintain boundaries:
Educate yourself. Understand your loved one’s condition. Learn if the condition will worsen over time (requiring more care) or if it’s more of an acute situation, like a broken bone or post-surgery convalescence.
Be honest with yourself. The first thing to do is know your own limitations. If you have a family to take care and a parent, how will the time be split? What is your personal health like? Can you physically help your loved one if they require assistance with standing, and Activities of Daily Living (ADL)?
Assess your resources. Do you have siblings, a spouse or other relatives that can help? Speak with your loved one’s physician or a think social worker who can help refer you to community services that can help with the demands of caregiving. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness!
Find time for yourself. Every week, carve out a couple hours of “you time” and let everyone know this time is sacred. Schedule respite care (if needed) for that time to ensure you can get away and recharge. Pick a self-care activity such as a pedicure/manicure, shopping for new clothes, a massage, or even reading a book!
Take care of your own health. If you feel run down or sick, take care of yourself. See your physician for your annual physical and your dentist twice a year. Take time to exercise or just take a walk.
Being a caregiving and dealing with emotions.
There is often a lot going on when a caregiver is taking care of a loved one. For aging parents that experience impaired cognitive abilities caused from dementia or Alzheimer’s, emotions can be quite volatile. Paired with being over-stressed and both you and your loved one can trigger one another. It’s important to understand that in the case of impaired cognitive abilities, a loved one may not have the tools to express feelings appropriately. So, being patient and tolerant is important. Remember too, it’s not about you. 99% of the time, their frustration and anger is about their situation and you are convenient.
It’s not easy being the target of their anger/frustration but try to remember it’s not you. Keeping mentally and emotionally healthy is paramount to your effectiveness as a caregiver. A good way to maintain your mental health is to find caregiver support groups in your area. There are several in-person and virtual groups available. You may want to consider seeing a therapist or mental health professional. Think has behavioral health specialists available to help you navigate and process your emotions.
Where should caregivers go for help?
Finding local resources to help you care for your loved one is essential. At think, we offer Care Coordination. Care Coordination doesn’t replace the day-to-day caregiver role, but it does help with scheduling appointments, medication management, general medical questions and guidance. To qualify for Care Coordination, a patient must have multiple chronic conditions. As your Primary Care provider if your loved one qualifies for this service. If they do qualify, your physician can refer you to our care coordination program, social worker to help source local resources and support. There are also clinical pharmacists to help manage medications.
The goal is to support you in your caregiving role as best we can. If you or your loved one isn’t a patient at Think Whole Person Healthcare, visit our Meet Your Doctor section and browse our physician and provider bios, then call our new patient line at 402.506.9049 or complete our new patient contact form and one of our schedulers will contact you within a business day.