Many people come to a point in their lives where they face having to make decisions regarding the care of an elderly relative. Such decisions are never easy and involve a lot of thought and consideration. Big life changes may need to be made in order to accommodate the relative’s needs.
Should you decide to care for a relative in your home or theirs, it’s important to remember that this can be a big task. Elder care can range from simply having to prepare meals and run errands for your relative to having to help them walk, eat, and reach the bathroom. No matter how prepared you feel for this undertaking, there will be times when it seems overwhelming. However, there are a few things you can keep in mind to help you during this difficult time.
Elderly relatives can suffer from a variety of ailments, not all of which are easily understandable. It’s not always possible for someone in good health to grasp how frustrating simple tasks can be for a person who has declining motor skills or difficulty controlling basic bodily functions. When you find yourself becoming exasperated, try to imagine things from your relative’s perspective. Consider what physical challenges he or she may be facing and why that makes certain tasks difficult. Then ask yourself how you would want someone to help if you were having the same problem. This can bring the situation into perspective and make it easier to aid your relative.
Ask for Help
Caring for an elderly relative is a big job, and you don’t have to do it on your own. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Other family members, friends, and even members of your community may be willing to give you a hand. Services like visiting nurses, home health aides, and hospice volunteers are available to ease the difficulty of elder care. Look into these before you being to feel overwhelmed so that you know what help is available and can utilize it whenever necessary.
Be Aware of Burnout
Elder care can sometimes be tiring or frustrating. But if you find that you’re constantly exhausted, detached and disinterested, losing your patience at small things, or generally not feeling like yourself, it’s time to take a step back. Physical and emotional burnout can result from prolonged stressful situations, which is exactly what elder care can be at times.
Feeling depressed, helpless, or hopeless isn’t healthy for you or the relative you’re caring for, and it’s important to take immediate action if you believe you’re reaching the point of burnout. Find someone else to care for your relative for a day or a few days so that you can take care of yourself. Go on a mini-vacation, take yourself shopping, or sit back and enjoy a few relaxing hobbies. It’s more than okay to give yourself a break-it’s essential to your well-being.
As much as you may wish to keep your relative at home, sometimes this is no longer possible. Care can become more than one person, or even a group of people, can handle. Your relative may need more personalized care than you can offer. Medical problems may become a serious consideration that require careful monitoring that’s not possible in the home.
Whatever the case, be realistic. Ask yourself if the current state of care is truly in your relative’s best interests. Discuss alternative options with your relative and his or her doctor to help determine if it’s time to take the next step in your relative’s care. Keep in mind that the best care possible is sometimes better handled by people with training in elder care.
Caring for an elderly relative can be frustrating, but it can also be rewarding. Giving care to another person is a task that not everyone is up to. But by taking steps to ensure both your relative’s well-being and your own, you can ease the difficulty of elder care and focus on the time you have with your relative in his or her later years.