Being a family caregiver is often something we want to do. Our parent(s) begin to decline in health, and we take it on as our responsibility to care for them. After all, they raised us, took care of us… it’s the least we could do to care for them as they age.
While taking care of an aging parent is a noble and worthy way to honor your parents, the act of caring for an aging loved one carries a number of challenges. Even though we don’t want to feel this way, sometimes it’s unavoidable. The important thing is to acknowledge your feelings and seek help if needed.
Here are some of the common challenges and symptoms that family caregivers encounter when taking care of an aging loved one:
1. Your relationships may suffer.
For example, a middle aged woman was responsible for providing care for her son, who was disabled after a tragic motorcycle accident. Prior to the accident, she had many friends and was always attending her bridge club, music events at the local concert venue, and cycling on Saturdays. But after she decided to assume the caregiving role for her son (a role she willingly accepted at the time) she hasn’t had time to do much, if any of these activities.
We often believe that we’re doing the best we can, providing care for a family member. But the truth is, burn out is just as likely for a family caregiver as it is for someone who works more than 40 hours a week for a long period of time. We need active social engagement and a time to “turn off.”
2. You feel guilty.
Many adult children experience this on an ongoing basis. They know that the nursing home is taking care of mom or dad, and the nursing staff is doing a great job with the level of communication and care. However, if they don’t make the time to see their loved one at the nursing home, and provide beyond what they are sometimes capable of, they feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. This may also lead to the decline in their own physical and emotional well-being, which leads to a number of other challenges.
3. You no longer feel like a daughter/son/niece/etc.
It is difficult to admit that we’ve lost our special connection with a loved one. When you’re the one who is making meals, doing laundry, driving to appointments, getting the mail, mowing the yard, administering medications, and so on and so forth, it is easy to forget that you’re also a son, daughter, niece, friend, or any other role.
Outside help, whether it’s a friend, family, or home aide, will help you take back the role that you’ve cherished all of these years. Imagine watching a movie with your mom or dad while the hired in home caregiver takes care of the dishes. Or the lawn company mows the yard.
With an aging parent, we never know how much time they have left. It’s important that we spend time with our family and carefully balance the role of family caregiver. Challenges will arise — that’s unavoidable. But having access to resources, information, and connections will help you manage these challenges successfully.