One day your parents seem totally self-sufficient and the next day they need help getting to doctor’s appointments. At least it feels that way. But the truth is your role in helping your aging parent often grows slowly.
How do you prepare for their needs and your own before you’re fully a member of the Sandwich Generation? Here we offer some tips from the Family Caregiver Alliance.
Common caregiver tasks
- Buy groceries, cook, clean house, do laundry, provide transportation
- Help your parent get dressed, take a shower, take medicine
- Transfer senior out of bed/chair, help with physical therapy, perform medical interventions – injections, feeding tubes, wound treatment, breathing treatments
- Arrange medical appointments, drive to the doctor or arrange transportation, sit in during appointments, monitor medications
- Talk with doctors, nurses, care managers and others to understand what needs to be done
- Spend time handling crises and arranging for assistance – especially for someone who cannot be left alone
- Handle finances and other legal matters
- Be a companion
- Be a (usually) unpaid aide, on call 24/7
Preparing to be a caregiver
- Identify yourself as a caregiver; recognize this new role you have assumed
- Get a good diagnosis – from a specialist or geriatrician if necessary – of your parent’s health condition
- Learn what specific skills you might need to care for someone with this diagnosis
- Talk about finances and healthcare wishes
- Complete legal paperwork, like Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives, etc.
- Bring family and friends together to discuss care and keep them up to date on the current situation
- Identify resources, both personal and in the community
- Find support for yourself and your loved one
- Remember that you are not alone
Prioritize your own needs too
- Realize you cannot be perfect and that you are entitled to your emotions
- Set realistic expectations – for yourself and your loved one
- Learn the skills you need to care for your parent and which ones you are or are not able to perform
- Learn to say “no” to things you cannot do
- Learn to accept help from others
- Build resilience
- Identify your button-pushers/stressors
- Identify your coping skills
- Remember the big three for successful coping: eat well, exercise and sleep at least 7-8 hours a night
- Admit when you are experiencing burnout and get help
- Remember that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of others
Melanie Stutler is a freelance writer and former Detroiter.
Caregiver Support Groups
Many local senior centers and community organizations have caregiver support groups to offer tips, insight and a community that understands the challenges you face.
Check out Metro Parent’s list of senior centers and resources for Michigan senior citizens for more information.