Caring for elderly parents is not for the feint of heart. Primary caregivers for an aging loved one often experience caregiver burnout. While it is not talked about enough, it is a very real risk.
Care giver burnout is when caring for a loved one causes physical and/or mental issues for the care giver. This can lead to depression like symptoms. Or worse, can make it hard or impossible for you to function normally. Click HERE to read more about care giver burnout.
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How to Share the Caregiver Burden
It is important to have a plan in place prior to reaching your breaking point when caring for your loved one. Therefore, one of the first steps you should take when you find yourself in the caregiver role is to have a family meeting.
This meeting can involve laying out expectations and deciding who is able to take on what role. No one should have to do this alone. A great tool to start with setting up your plan is this Family Caregiver Checklist .
EXAMPLE: One sibling lives close by, or the aging loved one lives with them. This adult child would be able to handle shopping and doctor appointments for their aging parent. Another sibling may live out of the area. Since they are not able to physically help, they can manage the finances. Such as setting up bill pay or balancing the check book for their parent.
A great tool to help you when setting up these plans is this Family Caregiver Checklist .
Having a plan and sharing responsibilities among several family members prevents one person from having too much on their plate. Additionally, if someone is financially supporting their loved one, it is also a good idea to keep receipts. Make sure to keep them well organized. This way you are able to also get added support from other family members and divide that burden as well as provide proof of expenses for tax purposes.
How to Ensure Everyone Agrees when Caring for your Aging Loved One
Sometimes, families may not agree when it comes to how to divide and share care. When this occurs, it may be helpful to ask for some outside help from a third party. Using either a social worker or a geriatric care manager could be very beneficial. They would be able to help you decide the best way to divide care as well as help give you other recommendations.
EXAMPLE: Perhaps your aging loved one is in need of a special medication that isn’t regularly carried at the pharmacy. A geriatric care manager may be able to help you find which pharmacy does carry the medication. This way you would avoid having to call all the pharmacies in search of one that can help. They could also help you set up a timed pill reminder box for your loved one to use.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes a distant family member might want to help, but not know what they can do. If you find yourself in this position, a good thing to do is just jump in and help where you can. Your other family member may not be able to think of ways for you to help as they are elbow deep in daily care for your aging loved one. Instead of asking “What can I do?”; it may be more beneficial to offer to do something that is your strong point. Such as “Would you like me to set up bill pay for you?
Care-giving Spouses without Children to Help
Not all aging adults have children to help them with care. Many times, it is a spouse that takes on the role of care giver for an aging loved one. The spouse themselves are also aging and may have health issues as well.
This can be very dangerous, as they may find their own health suffering as they struggle to care for their spouse. A staggering 30% of aging adults caring for their spouse pass before the one they are caring for.
If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to reach out to other family such as a niece or nephew. Or perhaps you can call on a neighbor, friend or someone from church that is trusted.
Another great option is in home care. This would allow them to remain independent at home, while also getting a much needed break. For more about making a plan for in home care, click HERE.