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How to Care for Yourself While Caring for Aging Parents

How to Care for Yourself While Caring for Aging Parents

You may have just started noticing signs that your elderly parents need more help, or you might have been a family caregiver for the last few years. Before we go any further into this article, if you’re any sort of family caregiver, take a moment to acknowledge yourself and how much you’re doing. Whether by choice or not, caring for an aging parent can be challenging and rewarding.

In this article, we will discuss the toll this responsibility takes on caregivers and the steps you can take to avoid caregiver burnout, stress, and resentment.

Caregiving: Why You Come First

Self-care is not selfish. Contrary to ‘self-indulgence’, self-care means you take time to be present with yourself. It can be as simple as noticing the cool water running down your throat as you take a drink, scheduling ten minutes of meditative journaling, or calling a friend to talk.

As a family caregiver, we often get stuck in the illusion of control. We stretch ourselves to our limit, deny ourselves breaks, and refuse help.

Typical Effects Caregivers Experience

Here are typical effects caregivers experience when caring for their loved ones:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor eating habits
  • Lack of exercise
  • Decreased rest when ill
  • Missed personal appointments
  • Feeling isolated
  • Work and family imbalance

These results of an overworked and stressed lifestyle can manifest into physical symptoms like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety attacks

Reaching this stage of caregiver burnout has the exact opposite effect of what you always wanted to achieve – to care for your loved one.

But what if you saw self-care as a part of being a family caregiver? What if you could adopt the belief that ‘When I take care of myself, Mom gets better quality care’?

How to Establish Personal Boundaries as a CaregiverWoman Relaxing on a Sofa Holding a Book and Mug

As we’ve grown, we’ve all established certain beliefs about ourselves and attitudes to self-care. We may feel the need for acceptance and love, adopting the role of caregiver to fulfill that need. We may have made promises to ourselves or our loved ones that we’re unable to fulfill.

Knowing our limitations is the first step to establishing healthy boundaries, and subsequently providing better care to ourselves and our loved ones.

1. Let others in

As caregivers of aging parents, we can feel a certain sense of pride in handling everything on our own. We might feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, or disloyalty, or could burden others with our responsibilities.

Instead, be open with the people around you about your role as a caregiver to aging parents. This way, your co-workers, boss, and friends know of your commitment and can offer more flexibility and understanding. It also gives you a better chance to ask for help before you’ve reached total burnout. By keeping a strong connection to your support system of friends, family, and work companions, you can share the burden and avoid being overloaded with responsibilities.

2. Get help

Another belief you may have is “I have to personally do everything myself to be considered a real ‘caregiver’”.

But maybe you’d rather have a home health aide to assist with bathing, bathroom assistance, and meal preparations. That way, your parents can have their privacy and you have more energy for other household tasks, and spending quality time with them.

Delegating tasks to home healthcare aides or other family members gives you more breathing space, and allows you to focus on the most important aspects of your loved one’s care.

You might realize that the amount of care your loved one needs necessitates a higher degree of care than what you can offer. In that case, a competent healthcare agency would help you find the best option between the CDPAP program, the NHTD program, and nursing home care, among other possibilities.

Remember, there are numerous healthcare agencies in New York like Americare out there who help people with these challenges every day. Be sure to reach out and find out what help is available to you.

3. Make time for you

It can feel overwhelming — even wrong — to carve time out for yourself amid the whirl of heavy responsibilities you have daily. But, when practiced and preserved, your mind, body, and heart will feel more at ease, allowing you to tackle your daily life with more calm and presence.

Try practicing these self-care tools. Remember, consistency is key. The more you make your personal time sacred, the better the results.

4. Better Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your mind and body to be at their highest degree of functioning. If your loved one needs night assistance, healthcare agencies like Americare can provide aides for the evening hours so you can keep your body strong for the next day.

5. Healthy Diet

Caffeine and energy drinks aren’t necessary when you’re in the habit of eating wholesome, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Fuel your body with the right amount of nutrients and feel energized.

6. Disconnect From Technology

Next time you’ve got a spare few minutes, don’t check your devices. Unplugging from technology is key to slowing down your thoughts and taking a few untouched moments to check in with yourself.

7. Deep Breathing and Meditation

Whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, practice deep breathing. This simple technique can help calm your mind and body and reduce feelings of anxiety or tension.

8. Do Something You Love

Expanding your triangle of home-work-caregiving is important because it fills you with a fresh sense of purpose and joy. Join a dance class, play an instrument, or take out some books from the local library, and sprinkle some of these joyful activities throughout your week to keep you motivated and happy.

9. Speak to a Home Healthcare Agency

There are benefits and programs like Medicaid-funded NHTD and CDPAP programs for aging seniors that you might not be aware of. A home healthcare agency can inform you of your parents’ benefits, and how, if eligible, you can get paid to be their caregiver.

Having more knowledge of the help out there, you can make a plan of action to get your aging parents the best care possible, while you’re still thriving.

How Americare Can Help

When you’re supporting others all day, every day, you need someone to support you. Every day Americare assists families and their loved ones in navigating the healthcare options available to them in New York. There is so much help out there, and we want you to take advantage of it.

Contact us today and speak to an Americare healthcare professional.

Get Started With Americare

Last Updated: April 9, 2024