When you go from child to caretaker, it can be difficult figuring out exactly what your role is in your parents’ life anymore. No matter how old you are, they’ll always be Mom and Dad, but now that you are making big decisions about their life, it can feel jarring and even frightening as you contemplate the future. If they have been diagnosed with a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s, you may also be left feeling like you’re slowly losing them in more ways than you can count. The stress of being a caretaker can begin to erode your personal relationships, impact your work and gradually wear away your overall well-being. That’s why having the right support is so important.
Although you may feel like you’re alone or can’t complain about your stressors and anxieties, that isn’t the case here. This guide is for new caretakers of elderly parents to begin sifting through their feelings and charting a course for the future. They still have life to live, and so do you. Together, you can find new ways to connect while creating a life that’s genuinely fulfilling for them regardless of their health limitations. It begins by first exploring what you’re feeling and deciding how you’ll move forward.
Keep Your Friends and Family Close
It’s natural for a caretaker to keep their emotions bottled up. They don’t think they have time or the right to complain, but you’re only human. It’s hard being the one in charge of someone else’s existence, especially a being as close and precious to you as your parent. If you’ve never been able to easily ask for help, consider learning the art of that skill now. It is never a sign of weakness but of strength. It shows that you both know and respect your limits and take action to ensure you don’t push yourself past them.
No one benefits from overexertion, least of all you. Make sure you have emotional outlets as you navigate the caretaker journey. Carve out time for venting and others just for socializing. Whether it’s date night with your partner or coffee with your best friend, it’s vital that you still have “me time” that keeps you grounded.
Talk to Your Parents
You may want to call the shots quickly so your parents don’t have to worry about anything, but this may backfire. Many elderly people become angry and resentful toward their caretakers because they feel as if they’ve lost all independence and autonomy. Instead of being included in decisions, they’re simply told what’s going to happen to them. It’s terrifying to lose that much volition in your life, so make sure you always keep your parents involved as much as they reasonably can be.
You should determine not only what your role in their care is but whether you alone are the best person for the job. You might work with your parents and decide that hiring an in-home care assistant is a good idea. Maybe they could benefit from going to a senior daycare or moving into an assisted living community. These are all big topics to discuss, and you’re likely to encounter far less resistance if you keep your parents actively involved in the decision-making process.
Many caretakers unintentionally start dictating what happens to someone rather than asking them what they’d like. Although you may be the one responsible for their well-being, they still deserve to hear, “what would you like right now?” or “what would be most helpful for you?”. Even if someone can no longer care for themselves entirely alone, they still deserve a voice and say in their life.
Tackle Finances Early
When you are managing someone else’s care, you may realize that you’re dealing with more than you can financially manage. If this is the case, you might want to explore options such as home equity loans and life insurance policy settlements. If your parents have a policy that they don’t need, you could talk to them about selling it to cover the cost of their expenses. You can sell your policy just like any other financial asset and get your estimate with Uplife Finance today.
You’ll also need to address topics like insurance coverage, medical bills and housing costs. If you have to take time off work, how will this impact your household? Do you have enough savings to miss a paycheck? If you’re in a couple, can your partner afford additional expenses while you step back and focus on caring for your parents?
You’ll also need to consider how less work will affect your future. Will you be able to retire at the same time if you miss months of work? In many cases, people decide to place their loved ones in an adult daycare or have an in-home elderly aide because they can’t afford to be with them full-time, and that’s okay.
You may also be able to acquire extra funds for looking after your elderly parents. Research Medicaid Caregiver Exceptions and Medicaid Personal Services to see if you qualify for a stipend that helps offset the expense of care. The National Council on Aging also offers an extensive list of senior benefits and programs you can investigate that may help you.
Talk to Their Doctor
You may not be sure when it’s time to move your parents to an assisted living facility or get outside help. This decision is tough, and it doesn’t have to be made alone. One of the most valuable sources of guidance is your parents’ doctor. They can help you better understand your parents’ health conditions and prognosis as well as recommend a course of care for their greatest well-being.
A positive outcome for everyone is important. Your parents’ health matters just as much as yours, your children’s and your partner’s. Don’t forget that you have a right to set boundaries and create balance in your life. Therapy can also help you immensely during this time by helping you process emotions, heal from any unresolved traumas and thoughtfully planning for the future.