Every year, an estimated 43.5 million adults in the U.S.—about 60% of them women—become a parent’s caregiver. (Source: AARP). Taking care of someone you love is rewarding, but it does come with its own challenges.
Here are six things you must ask yourself before becoming your parent’s caregiver:
- Are you prepared for the physical challenges of caregiving? Many people sign up to be the primary caregiver out of a sense of duty or even guilt. While it is admirable to become the family caregiver, you may not be entirely prepared for the roller coaster of emotions and physical stress that can be taxing for even the strongest person. Depending on the amount of care your parent requires, you may have to help with a variety of physical tasks including lifting, bathing, dressing, bathroom needs, walking/mobility, feeding, and medical needs.
- Are you willing to make the hard decisions? Even with the best laid plans, when you are faced with a difficult choice that affects your loved one, there is added pressure. You want to know that you are doing your best to weigh all available options and provide quality care that is in line with your parents’ desires, even if they cannot vocalize them. Caregiving constantly presents difficult decisions where you can struggle with what you need and want to do for your loved one.
- Are you ready to make personal sacrifices? Providing elder care to a family member takes an extraordinary amount of time and energy. Before you become the primary caregiver, you need to be committed to maintaining some balance in your life. If you go years caring for someone else and avoid your own personal needs, your abilities as an attentive, organized and compassionate caregiver will deteriorate. Plan time for respite care to help maintain your health and happiness during your caregiving journey. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Are you ready for the financial impact? When taking on a caregiver role, adult children often must reduce their hours at work or even quit their jobs altogether. In addition to the income impact, caregivers may find themselves simultaneously taking on extra expenses. On average, family members serving as caregivers are spending nearly $7,000 of their own money each year on their loved one’s expenses–helping cover the cost of things like medical bills, utilities and food. (Source: National Alliance for Caregiving)
- Are you ready for a possible change in the relationship you have with your parent? One of the trickiest things about caring for an aging parent is when the child feels as if they have become the “parent”. The change in roles can feel like a loss. The person that you once knew as your mother or father may be changing rapidly. It is okay to feel sad or angry about any change in your relationship. In any situation, the key is to maintain mutual respect.
- Are you willing to accept help? The hardest thing most caregivers face is asking others for help. Many caregivers feel guilty when the day-to-day stress of caring for a parent becomes too much. Every caregiver needs a break. You must be ready to speak up and seek help from family or friends, or hire a professional home care provider who can help support you while allowing your loved one to be cared for in a familiar environment and comfortable surroundings.
Making the decision to become the sole caregiver means taking a lot of different factors into consideration. The family caregiver must understand the need for patience, compassion, unconditional love, and kindness for not just their loved one, but for themselves as well. And they must realize there will always be struggles both emotionally and physically when taking on this role.
We are proud to CHAMPION the family caregiver, offering empathy, advice, and support for those who provide countless hours of care to their loved ones. At FirstLight Home Care we want to provide a helping hand, relieve some of the stress that comes with caregiving and give you back a few hours in your overwhelmingly busy day.
National Alliance for Caring: www.cargiving.org