Posted: November 24, 2021
Caring for a parent is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs you can do. Most older adults prefer to age in place, but as they get older their health can deteriorate and they may need special care. Becoming the primary caregiver for your aging parent is a big commitment and will mean an adjustment to your lifestyle and your relationship with your parent. Here are 5 questions to consider before taking on this role.
As the primary caregiver for your parent, you may find yourself in a role-reversal where your parent feels more like the child, and you feel more like the parent. You may take over their financial affairs, need to make hard decisions about driving privileges, help them bathe, dress, eat, manage medications, and help with household tasks.
Most parent-child relationships are complex, and you both bring emotions and a history into your interactions with each other. This will be an adjustment for everyone and it’s important to learn how to communicate openly and respectfully. While you see your role as helping, your parent may resist or express resentment because they never imagined needing support from their child. Respect your parent’s independence and involve them in decision-making as much as possible. Validate each other’s feelings and if necessary, seek professional counseling to help you process the changes to your relationship.
There are a variety of positive aspects of caregiving. Supporting an aging parent can give you a sense of purpose, add meaning to your life, and even strengthen your relationship. Taking on the responsibility of being the primary caregiver of your parent can also take a toll on you emotionally. Caring for a parent living with dementia can be particularly challenging as they may struggle with depression, anxiety, or hallucinations. Learn more about the evolving needs of a person living with dementia.
Depending on the level of support your parent needs, it may also take a toll on you physically. Helping your parent up and down, lifting them, assisting with bathing, dressing, and toileting can strain muscles if not done properly. Long-term stress associated with caregiving can lead to poor nutrition and sleeping habits, causing and illness or poor mental health. Don’t put off doctor appointments, get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
Being the primary caregiver for your parent takes an extraordinary amount of time and energy. If you work or have a family of your own, you may neglect your own health and personal life which can lead to caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout is particularly taxing If you are living with your aging parent and providing 24/7 care. If your parent is living with dementia and experiencing sleep disturbances like sundowning you may not get enough sleep to enable you to provide the care that is needed. Take breaks as often as you can. Ask family and friends to help with some of your caretaking tasks or consider hiring a home health aide to help. Seek support from those close to you or find a family caregiver support group in your area.
Preparing yourself to take on the role of the primary caregiver for your aging parent also includes assessing if you have the skills necessary to provide the care they will need. Unlike caring for children, older adults have different needs and pose a different set of challenges. There are correct ways to help a senior bathe, dress, and take care of personal hygiene. Seniors have particular nutritional needs and often require medication management. Your parent might need skilled wound care, ostomy care, or need special monitoring. Professional caregivers undergo training before they are allowed to work as home health care providers.
You want the best for your parent which is why you may consider becoming their primary caregiver. But when healthcare needs exceed your expertise, don’t feel guilty about enlisting the help of a professional caregiver or perhaps moving your parent to a senior living community where they can receive expert care from a team of professionals.
Is Home the Best Place for Your Parent?
While most older adults prefer to age in place, home is not always the safest option. Their home may seem fine but modifications, like grab bars and handrails, or remodeling to create a main floor bedroom might be necessary. Outdated electric outlets, poor lighting, cords or rugs that they could trip on, and household chemicals they could accidentally ingest present hazards that could lead to a serious injury.
You’ll want to do a room-by-room assessment to make sure the home is safe. You may need to purchase equipment like a bathing or shower chair, handheld showerhead, a hospital bed, or a medical alert or fall detection system. Read AARP’s recommendations on making a home safer for seniors.
When Caregiving Becomes Too Much
Becoming the primary caregiver for your aging parent can have a major impact on your life. While there are some wonderful benefits for both of you, over time the stress of caring for your parent may become too much. While you might feel guilty about asking others for help, every caregiver needs a break.
At some point, your parent’s needs might be more than you can manage at home, even with the help of others. Their medical needs or memory loss could become so significant that home is no longer a safe and viable option. It may be time to consider a move to a senior living community that offers assisted living or memory care.
At Walnut Crossing in Marysville, Ohio, our senior assisted living amenities work alongside our programming to help encourage residents to be more active and involved in our warm and friendly community. Residents are given the opportunity to live an engaged, active lifestyle while receiving supportive care.
Our memory care services strive to be the anchor that keeps your parent connected to their unique personality, purpose and joy. We are committed to person-centered care, creating meaningful relationships with each resident, and supporting families and residents to find joyful connections. Our Rhythms Dementia Philosophy and Program recognizes that dementia changes the way a person experiences the world around them. Our job is to create environments where each person can navigate the world successfully and create worlds where life is worth living. We are committed to honoring people wherever they are in the rhythm of their life.
At Walnut Crossing, your parent will receive professional support in a caring environment, and you can visit without the stress of being the primary caregiver. You can enjoy your time with them and re-engage with them as their son or daughter. We know this is a difficult decision to make, and we are here to help and answer any questions you may have. Contact us to learn more or schedule a live virtual tour of our beautiful community.