Taking care of your elder relatives is always challenging, and very often, it can significantly impact your physical and mental health. It’s one of the most emotionally difficult experiences one can encounter, but it’s also one of the most selfless things you can do for someone. You only need to learn how to deal with it.
That’s only natural that a caregiver can snap, burn out, or suddenly fall ill. But you can avoid it – and we’re going to help with that. Here are five tips for going through your new role as smoothly as possible. Just remember one thing: being a caregiver is a choice. There’s nothing shameful in seeking help or looking for 24 hour home care. After all, your life matters, too.
Care for yourself first
Elderly people are often the most vulnerable among us, but they can also be the most difficult to care for. It’s hard to find the balance between doing everything for them and being too overprotective. You need to learn how to keep your elder relative safe and well-cared for, while also managing your own emotions.
This one’s easy to say, but it’s hard to put it into practice. However, there are some steps you can take to make sure you’re getting proper care as well. Start by setting up regular, open communication with your relatives and family. The more you communicate, the less stressed you’ll feel. Let them know you’re there for them and that you’re available. Never promise too much, though. Be honest about what you’re capable of doing, and follow through with it. Ultimately, you need to set up your own boundaries. If you need to ask for help or to take a break, do it.
Look after your mental health
Being a caregiver is incredibly taxing. You’re often expected to make the tough decisions, yet you’re usually the one who has to handle their consequences later on. You need to take care of yourself first if you want your elder relative to get the best possible care and support.
We all have our bad days. If you have one when your relatives need you the most, try not to let it get in the way of their care. You can take a nap when they go to sleep or spend time on your hobbies after they go to bed. Take good care of yourself physically, too. Eat regularly and drink plenty of water, even if you feel like you don’t have the time for it. Don’t forget about exercise – even if it turns out to be just a walk around the block every day. Your physical health will improve, and so will your mental health.
Seek help early on
There are different kinds of help out there – from loved ones and friends to professional medical help. You just need to seek it out and let your relatives know that you’re doing it. All of these approaches can help relieve some of the burdens if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
If you’re spending too much time at your elder relatives’ place, ask other family members to help out. It doesn’t matter whether they live nearby or a thousand miles away. In case you can’t get any help from the family, don’t feel bad about asking for professional help. You can look for a caregiver online, but don’t just hire the first one you come across. Make sure they know what they’re doing and ask plenty of questions before making a decision.
If your elder relatives live far away from you and your family, it might be better for them to move closer to you, especially if they tire too easily or can no longer drive safely. This way, you could visit them often, and they wouldn’t have to worry about how to get around town.
Take care of your elder relatives’ health
The best way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to keep your elder relatives’ health as close to perfect as possible. It’s not easy, but there are many simple things you can do to make sure they get the right medical care and treatment.
For example, you can do your research and find out what kind of medicine your elder relatives need, and make sure they always have a sufficient supply. Also, if you notice any changes in their health or behavior, talk to their doctors as soon as possible. It’s always a good idea to make sure they have regular checkups, but if you’re busy with other things, ask another family member to help out.
Make it easy for your elder relatives to live with you
If you need to take care of your elderly relative in your own home, this new arrangement may be difficult for all parties involved. As such, it’s important to make them feel independent and supported at the same time.
It might be a good idea to get a pet for your elder relatives if they’re capable of taking care of another living creature on their own. This way, they’ll have a companion they can easily talk to and feel comfortable with. You should also think about making changes in their house; to make it easier for them to keep up with the housework and to move around easily. Look for simple things you can do, like getting a stepper, installing bath and shower grab bars, handrails, and so on.
Being a caregiver is a tough job, and people often don’t realize how difficult it is. The family is usually the first to offer help, but sometimes, even if they really want to, they can’t do much. They might live far away from you or your elder relative, or they might be busy with their own lives and careers. This can be hard to accept, but you should try not to take it personally.
You’re not on your own; there are plenty of people you can trust to help your elder relatives whenever you need them. If you feel like you’re struggling alone, reach out for help. See if other family members can visit your relative more often or if they can help out with the housework. Remember that in this difficult situation, you need to take care of yourself and your family as well.
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.