The adults in our country who are stuck in the Caregiver Paradox are balancing the roles of parent, child, spouse, employee and caregiver all at once.
At Caring Hearts, we strive to help these family caregivers escape the Caregiving Dilemma by rebalancing their family roles: Assisting the elderly parent with their daily needs frees the rest of the family to again be family members, rather than caregivers.
In honor of Parents’ Day, I’d like to share with you some tips we have gathered at Caring Hearts over our 18 years of helping Americans stuck in the Caregiver Paradox. Whether you’re a caregiver parent considering hiring outside help, or you’re just looking for some advice on how to manage your expanding care roles, I hope this list will help make life easier for you. (I’d love to hear if it does! Please share your experience with us on Facebook or in the comments section below.)
Do you know what will happen if your loved one’s needs become too great for you to handle alone?
If you do have an idea, have you discussed it with them?
As a caregiver parent, it’s so important to have these critical conversations early on, before you need an immediate answer. So research your care options, and make sure that you, your loved one, and the rest of your family are on the same page now.
Communicate Openly with Your Parents
If you’re new to being a caregiver, it’s important to set some ground rules early on. Make sure everyone knows what you can and cannot do. If you’re not sure right now, that’s okay. Try to communicate your thoughts, even if they’re incomplete: It’s important that your family knows what’s on your mind.
Since communication goes both ways, you also need to be a good listener. For instance, it can sometimes be easy to start treating your parents like a child as they become more dependent, and you might find yourself making decisions for them without talking it through with them. This is a big mistake. It’s important to treat your aging loved ones with the same respect you always have. Listen to their wishes and needs, and try to come to a group decision. Forcing them to do something they don’t want will often lead to a bad outcome.
Manage Your Stress
This is something we all hear, whether we’re currently a caregiver parent or not: Managing your stress is critical.
Your lifestyle can have a huge impact on your outlook on life, because our daily habits contribute to the stress we carry. So make an effort to eat well, sleep well, and exercise. Be sure you’re eating meals throughout the day, and try to eat good, healthy foods rather than junk food. Regular exercise is just as important—I don’t know if I could have taken on the care needs of my family members if I wasn’t such an avid runner. Finally, a good night’s sleep will let you rejuvenate properly for another day.
It’s also important to relax during your day. So many of us are busy with all the responsibilities of modern life that we run from meeting to meeting, work to home, dinner to chores to bedtime, without ever taking a moment to relax. If this sounds like a normal day to you, try to schedule moments of quiet solitude into each day. Don’t look at any screens, and just take some time to breathe. Five quick minutes of peace could really turn your day around!
When You’re Becoming Worn Out, Talk About It
The worst thing you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed is to keep it all bottled up inside. For one thing, you’ll be putting yourself on a course toward explosion or implosion. You’ll also be missing out on connecting with people who are probably going through a lot of the same things you are.
Start sharing your feelings with friends and family. When you open up about your worries, fears, stress and needs, you’ll find there are people who are willing to listen, and some who will even help out, too.
You might also consider joining a support group. Caregivers are everywhere, and most cities and towns have groups meeting weekly just to discuss the things you’re most worried about. The opportunity to vent freely and hear stories similar to your own is often invaluable for a caregiver.
Share the Burden
When you start talking about your situation with loved ones or fellow caregivers, you’ll start to get an idea of who might be willing and able to help with the duties you’ve been tasked with. Perhaps your spouse or a friend can check up on your mom or dad one day a week, allowing you to tend to your own needs or the needs of other family members.
You’ll also start to hear about the experiences others have had with local home care agencies, which can give you an idea of what will work for you if and when you decide to hire outside help. (Be sure to read our 15 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Caregiver list!)
Focus on the Things You Can Control
Focusing on the negative, uncontrollable aspects of your family situation will drive you nuts. (Believe me!) Instead, focus your energy on how you can make a positive difference. Sometimes, your outlook on life has a lot to do with how you react to these types of problems. Staying positive will make your life—and your loved ones’ lives—easier, so try to find that silver lining.
Over to You…
What has helped you manage your caregiver situation? As both a caregiver to aging loved ones and a parent to your own children, is there a trick that has made a huge difference for you? Please share with us on Facebook or in the comments section below.