Older adults now face more caregiving challenges than ever before. The number of adult children assisting aging parents has more than tripled in the past 15 years. At the same time, some are helping their own adult children who are living at home longer and needing more financial help. Some grandparents are finding themselves responsible for their grandchildren. And lots of older adults are finding that spouses and friends need additional help.
If you, as a caregiver, don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help others.
It’s not easy, but it is important for the caregiver to ask for help. Frequently family and friends are happy to be of service, especially if they have a list of specific requests such as picking up food from the store or just giving you a one hour break to go for a walk.
Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression and increases energy and alertness. Walking is one of the best and easiest exercises, and it can be done in short bursts, like just a 15 minute walk around your neighborhood after lunch when it is a little warmer.
Caregivers need to be easy on themselves. As hard as you might try to keep everything running smoothly, it is likely to “fall apart” at some point. Don’t feel guilty or feel you are not doing enough. Just realize that some things are beyond your control. No one is the “perfect” caregiver. Just do the best you can at any given time. It’s not the end of the world if the house gets a little dirty or you buy some prepackaged meals.
If you can find time to see your friends, that’s good to do, even if for only a short period. Go ahead and take a walk together or eat lunch with a friend. Having a strong social support system greatly lessens the stress of caregiving.
Caregivers are sometimes so focused on their loved one that they don’t realize their own health and well being are suffering. Some of the signs of stress include: feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, not taking care of yourself when you are ill, and putting off making medical appointments for yourself. Some folks report they are feeling tired most of the time or feeling irritable or hopeless about the future.
The important thing is for the caregiver to receive care and support. Maybe the adult day care centers or various support groups could be a help.
Family caregivers are the main part of the care system with about 66 million family caregivers taking care of parents, relatives, spouses and children. Let’s all help the caregivers.
Did you hear? “You are where you are right now in your life because of the choices you have made and the actions you have taken. If you want to change your life, remember that change starts with you.” — Jeffrey Keller.
John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser who has served Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs.