One of the ways I tried to help Dad hold on to some of his independence was to ask him to put the bills in envelops, stamp and address them while I wrote the checks. At first he didn’t want to go to the trouble of writing his return address, but I was able to convince him that doing that was a help to me. This had the additional benefit of reinforcing his memory of his new address in Denver.
Thanks, Jane, for sharing your expertise.
Family Dynamics: Tips to a Positive Caring for the Elderly
At one point in a person’s life, the role of being cared for will change to being the one taking care of your loved ones. When this happens, it can be both rewarding and challenging. The person you once looked to as a pillar of strength may now need your help which can sometimes cause you to be uncertain of how best to enter that role reversal.
But caring for elderly family members can be an incredibly rewarding experience. While you both go through the challenges of aging together you will develop a deeper bond that will allow you to feel closer to your loved ones. Many people also experience a feeling of satisfaction that they are able to give back a portion of what was given to them early on in life. Still, the challenges exist to balance work, your own family and caring for your elderly loved ones at the same time.
To help with this delicate balance, here are a few important tips to help you focus on the positive of being able to help your family member while overcoming the challenges that come with this new role and duty.
- Plan together as frequently as possible – Your aging family members are likely unhappy about the changes they are experiencing with their health and they want to continue having a say in the treatment they receive. While you are the best person to care for them, it is important to give them a voice and make sure they know that their opinion and preferences are being heard as they go in for treatment and care.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen – Lending a listening ear can be your best move when your family member is frustrated at their health and their decrease level of freedom. To overcome this, sometimes the best thing you can do is to let them vent their frustration to you. If you try to stop them from being negative or talking about their condition too much, you risk creating a rift that will cause them to keep their stress and anxiety inside which can have worsening affects to their health and drive you both apart.
- Encourage them to be as independent as possible – Although your family member may not be able to perform all of the same functions as they used to, they may still have some independence that they can hold on to. In some cases, they may give this independence up because certain tasks become more difficult. It is important to remind them that these tasks are still not impossible for them and encourage them to act on their own as often as possible. This will help them to maintain their strength and give them a positive mental boost that can have a healthy effect on their overall well-being.
- Take care of yourself – While you undoubtedly love your aging family member and want to be there for them as much as possible, it is important to take care of yourself in the process. If you get sick or burnt out because of too many long hours caring for them and your own family, you will be less of an asset and may not be able to help any further even though you may want to. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself by keeping up your exercise regimen, your job and your own family life with your spouse and children.
- Arrange for assisted living or in home care – At some point, you may be faced with the decision to put your elderly family member into an assisted living center or to hire in home care to help with the daily tasks that may be too much for you to take on completely on your own. This is a difficult decision for some people as it is expensive and may make the elderly parent feel as if their family is not willing to help in their time of need. However, the step is important for the overall health of you and your aging loved one. By hiring help, you will avoid getting burnt out and your loved one can get the care that they need.
You love your family and want to do everything for them, but taking care of your own health and well-being must also take priority.
Jane Bongato is part of the team behind Open Colleges, Australia’s provider of aged care courses. She usually writes about senior/elder care. On her spare time, she loves to read, paint or meet with friends.