Caregiver stress is a well-known phenomenon and should be taken very seriously. Being a carer, whether full-time or part-time, is hard work and shouldn’t be taken on lightly. You might be very willing to take on the responsibility of caring for your elderly parents; it can be rewarding and bring you closer together. However, you should be well aware of the symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout, look for help if it happens to you, and put measures in place to avoid it for as long as possible.
Research Resources in Your Area
It’s easy to start looking after someone; you pick up their groceries at the same time as your own, and they want support during a medical appointment or procedure. However, it’s very easy for the odd job here or there to turn into a full-time carer role without much indication it’s happening. Whether you’re at the beginning of the journey or have suddenly realized the position you’ve taken on, you need to stop and research extra help and resources in your area. These might be resources for your parents (social groups they can attend, volunteers who offer to drive and wait during appointments, meals delivered), or they might be resources you can use (funds to help with respite care, social groups of other carers for moral support or useful ideas and so on). There will be help around; you just need to look for it.
Accept Your Limits
Recognizing your limits is always an important step toward self-care. When caring for anyone else, you must firmly establish boundaries – what you are willing to do and cannot do. As their health deteriorates, these are pushed, but your physical and mental health needs to remain firm. Setting up respite care means you can have a complete break from your role – and you should try to organize this once a month rather than considering it an annual event.
Beyond boundaries, there will also come a time when you have to recognize your physical limitations to look after your parents. This is always difficult to come to terms with, but the physical and emotional needs of older people grow with time, and it is not reasonable to expect you can always keep up. Centers specializing in care for patients with Alzheimer’s in St. Louis are full of professional staff, careful security, and are fully structured around people with the condition. It is unlikely that you can recreate such an environment at your parent’s home.
Make full use of modern technology in every aspect of your and your parent’s lives. Use calendars and smart assistants to set up appointments and call out reminders. Set up automatic bill payments and have everything linked to your phone. Smart doorbells can provide security; smart locks can mean no one gets locked out; and smart thermostats mean you can sort out their home without needing to head over. You could even get a robot vacuum for your house or theirs to take away one job.
You are doing a good thing, and physical or emotional abuse doesn’t change because of age or care needs. If the relationship is going wrong, seek professional help and advice on what to do. It is common to feel underappreciated by parents when taking on a care role, but that doesn’t mean it has to be accepted. If your mental health starts to suffer, take a break and walk away.