Parenting Our Parents: Do You Have What it Takes?

Mar 21, 2016

Parenting Our Parents: Do You Have What it Takes?

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An estimated 43.5 million people are providing care to older adults according to a 2009 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving, AARP, and MetLife Foundation’s survey data. But, not everyone is cut-out for caregiving. Many people don’t realize the first step to take before even considering taking on a primary caregiving role to a loved one is that you need to first care enough about yourself to assess whether you’re capable of doing so.

Are You Equipped To Parent Your Parent?

Aging is inevitable and these days it seems that seniors are eager to stay under the care of family members to stay involved with their loved ones, save money, and to avoid placement in a nursing home. Essentially, it seems like a win-win for everyone. Unfortunately, the truth is that taking control of the care for an elderly loved one or a family member suffering from health complications can be biting off more than some caregivers can chew.

Before you decide to take on the daunting challenge of taking care of an aging relative, you need to take a look at your own circumstances. If you aren’t prepared to take on the stress, costs, potential unforeseen emergencies and everything else that can accompany caregiving-- take a look at your own life. What it all comes boiling down to is that there are no caregivers for burned-out caregivers.

Things to Consider Before Becoming a Caregiver:

Where are you in your life?

Not everyone is leading a perfectly charmed life. In fact, next to no one is. Meditate on your current place in life before taking on the challenges of yet another human being. Maybe you already are a caregiver to your own child with learning disabilities and just don’t have the time to devote to your family member on a full-time basis. Maybe you are going through a rough patch financially and just can’t provide at the moment.

Are you right for your loved one?

Caregiver mismatch is something that occurs frequently within both paid care providers and volunteering family members. If your relative has a history of being extremely volatile around you, it probably is best to not accept the huge obligation that accompanies caring for loved ones. This can be a massive obstacle for both the senior and the family member providing assistance. If your personalities are not jiving, it can cause major arguments, resentment, issues about control, or a breakdown in communication. A caregiver may also receive a lot of unwarranted criticism---which brings us to the next point to consider…

Can you handle criticism?

Elder abuse is a serious issue. However, what about the caregivers that feel victimized by the seniors in their custody? Often times, seniors will oppose the help offered from their family and insist to maintain their independence regardless of their abilities. It can really affect a person’s self-esteem when their efforts are either unappreciated or completely unwelcomed.

Can you mediate your family?

It’s odd how your relatives can transform from loving supporters into wild rams as they start to butt heads about everything related to taking care of a loved one. When you’re debating your abilities to provide quality care to someone important in your life- can you handle the fights and disagreements that can ensue between your family? The tough decisions, high levels of stress and intermingling of personalities can be a recipe for disaster. Can you take the reigns and stop disagreements between yourself and other family members? Or, will it just cause a drain on your own well-being without yielding any positive results?

Are you someone who reacts positively to change?

You can expect some major changes should you choose to start taking the lead on caregiving for an older relative. You’re going to need to make adaptions in your day-to-day life. For instance, you may have to purchase home modifications for seniors with physical limitations such as an access ramp for a wheelchair or a special shower for their safety.

Are you capable of calmly handling emergencies?

Caregiving is unpredictable. When taking care of a relative in your home, you lack the support of medically trained professionals on staff nor the resources that can most-effectively handle the unforeseen issues that could occur. If your loved one suffers from a history of health complications, it may be your safest bet to move them into a special nursing facility.

If you are caring of an older relative and need assistance, explore AARP’s Caregiving Planning Guide for Families.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My sister has been the primary caregiver for our father for the past year and has recently become apathetic. What can I do?

Apathy in one common sign of compassion fatigue and is common among those who work in the caregiving industry. While it is different than burnout, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. If you are able, try to alleviate some of your sister’s responsibilities by filling in and allowing her to practice some self-care as well. Also, do not be afraid to point her in the direction of a caregiver support group. There are many great resources available to help with compassion fatigue.

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My father has lived in the same house for over 50 years, so he's reluctant to leave. How do I talk to him about moving to a senior care community?

When people grow attached to a familiar setting, moving to a senior care community can be a difficult subject, especially when caregiving is involved. To avoid excessive stress for you and your loved one, there are ways to bring up "the move" to elderly parents. Remember to remain honest and address any concerns your father may have. Prepare yourself for resistance. 

Have you checked out our Is It Time to Seek Senior Care Checklist? This resources will help you decide if it really is the right time for your senior to move out. This may be something that you want to bring to a meeting with your senior to show them some reasons why it may not be safe for them to live independently anymore.

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