It is difficult to change roles in a family from that of your parents caring for you to know you caring for one or both of your aging parents. We no longer live in a culture where many of our children are just down the street or more than one generation lives in the same home. An astounding 41% of baby boomers have living parent that they are providing for –either financial, personal or both. Taking on the role of caregiver for your aging parent is as responsible as caring for younger child because their needs eventually return back to the same concerns we had with our children when they were preschoolers: safety, transportation, assistance with bathing and meals and maintaining a suitable living environment. It is easy to get your life out of balance and to literately take on another part-time to full-time job to care for an elderly relative. To help prevent burnout and to take care of oneself here are some helpful tips on how to balance caring for an aging parent:
1. Adopt the tradition of sharing the care with each child. If you have siblings that can assist with the care consider share the care by setting up a monthly or quarterly rotation system. Each family will need to have a room for their parent in their home. Each home should be set up to look similar so your relative feels at home. Sharing the care lessens the burden on one primary caregiver. If you have relatives spread out around the country try to work in the seasons- winter in Florida is a better choice than New Jersey in the winter.
2. Assess your parents care needs and lay out a plan of care for each caregiver. Try to create a daily/weekly routine and keep this the same with each caregiver when you are sharing the care. Some needs to assess are; do they need assistance with hygiene care and dressing, are they getting some exercise to prevent them from losing their mobility, do they need transportation to doctors and shopping, does one family member need to take charge of their financial matters to prevent them from overpaying bills or being spammed by telesales companies.
3. Create a schedule of daily activates to keep their mind sharp and prevent boredom and depression. Would they benefit from attending a social event or group at church, a local senior lunch program, participate in a senior center activity or just taking a walk to socialize with the neighbors
4. Come up with a list of activities they love to do or have a passion for and do this with them. If you have a former gardener give them some small plants and help they plant them in the yard set up a small flower garden. If they love to listen to music collect some CD’s with music from their era and has a music hour. Did they love to cook make a cake and let them be involved in the simple things like stirring. Enhanced Moments has CD’s with music for this generation (refer to the resources section). A list of activities for dementia or Alzheimer’s parents can be found on websites like Alzhiemers Assoicaiton it will help both of you pass the time together: www.alz.org
5. Tape their memoirs. We all live in our past as we get older, and although you may know all their stories, someday they will not be here to tell them. It is a great gift to them to have someone ask questions and listen to them with interest. Perhaps a niece or grandchild who doesn’t know the stories can do this as a summer project. There are some special programs that assist you with this such as Story Corps (see resources section).
6. Schedule two appointments on the same day to cut down on the time spent driving to medical appointments or running errands. Grocery shopping and hair salon appointments can be done on the same day. Appointments with two medical specialists in the same area can be coordinated on the same day. These cuts down on the time you request off from work or cut out of your free time
7. If you are unable to care for your parent personally or your aging parent simply needs more care than you can provide, interview and carefully select the best homecare agency that will give your parent quality care and focus on improving the quality of his or her life.