Sharing the Burden of Caring for an Elderly Parent
Like a child, it “takes a village” to care for an elderly parent. Providing care for your parents can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. But, it can also be a job filled with taxing, and sometimes thankless work that can be physically and emotionally overwhelming--a perfect time to reach out for help.
Take the Help, Leave the Guilt
Asking for help can be hard. But, giving yourself a break will ultimately make you a better caregiver. Asking for help does not mean you are not an adequate caregiver rather that you acknowledge and know your limits. Although it may seem like you are imposing on friends and family, most appreciate the work that you do and would most likely be happy to help but just need to know how to help. Empower yourself to ask for help and not feel guilty about it.
Looking for ways people can help? MCE is developing actionable how-to lists so friends and family know exactly what needs to be done and can be an active part of caring. The more specific that you can be--the better. "Take Mom to the doctor's" should turn into "Take Mom to Dr. Smith's for her 3 pm appointment. They are located at 123 Main Street and it usually takes 15 minutes to get there. The appointment should only take about 20 minutes. Thanks!" MCE has found that a note like this increases the chances that your care team will help and complete all tasks and look for more to do since they know what the task will involve.
Be Open to Alternatives
When caregiving overwhelms you, be open and honest with your care team and find ways that they can help. If no one can pick up Mom for her doctor's appointment, maybe they would be willing to help out other ways. If they offer to help, thank them and ask for their suggestions. Keep a list of what needs to be done and suggest alternatives when care team members offer to help.
You Get More Flies with Honey
Even though you are probably the one doing most of the work and it feels like a thankless job, try making asking for help as positive of an experience as possible. Ask people for help rather than demanding it. Be assertive, but kind. Most importantly, thank your care team. If you thank them enough, they may even thank you in return.
Caring for elderly parents is a massive job made up of many tasks. But it doesn't have to be a task that you tackle alone. Reaching out to your care team when you can't be there or just to give yourself a break will help you be a better caregiver and ultimately be better for your parents as well.
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