One minute your living life the same way – kids to school, get to work, after school activities, date night with the spouse. And the next minute you’re thrust into an entirely new world – a world that means you’ll now be caregiver for your mom or dad on a regular basis.
If you’re caregiving for a parent or loved one, you are not alone. Roughly 66 million people in the United States are living in some type of caregiving role. They are unpaid, caring for those with chronic or long term care needs. It can be both challenging and rewarding – literally a job you can’t prepare for, and requires on the job training alone.
It can be especially frustrating because you’re suddenly thrust into a role reversal situation. Your parents were always there for you; now its up to you to take care of them. And if you’ve always been the type to fix things and get things done, it can be very frustrating when you’re faced with something you simply cannot change.
Your first step in your journey is to realize you are not alone. Rather than going it alone, fill your support system with people that understand your new position. Attend a caregiver class. Join a caregiver support group. And work with a in home caregiving company that can provide you with tips or resources that may have taken you weeks, even years to figure out on your own.
Next, remember this isn’t your only role. If you were a wife, mother, sister, worker, president of the PTA before, you’ll now be all of those things AND a caregiver. Don’t let the caregiving role overwhelm you. If it cuts into your other duties and responsibilities, ask for help. Help can come in the form of sisters, brothers, friends, and other family members, or it can come in the form of paid in home caregivers.
Keep your communication line open at all times. Its important to communicate with the person you are caring for and ask for input from them when they can give it. Its also important for you to keep communication lines open with those around you: all other caregivers, family members, doctors, and other resources you use regularly. Ask for help even before you need it. If you have people lined up to help out with even minor chores, it will give you more time to do other things.
Finally, educate yourself. You’ll now be manager of your parent’s medicines and doctors appointments. You’ll be in charge of health histories, lab and test results. If a condition changes or gets worse, you’ll be the one in charge of taking action. The more organized you become, the more you learn about each aspect, the easier things will be down the road.
While much of the caregiving role will be about them, never forget you too. Make sure your health and well-being stays in top shape; it’s the only way you can give back to the ones you love.