What About Me? Questions Family Caregivers Need to Ask Themselves But Don’t
Caring for your elderly parent feels like the right decision. Your mom or dad took care of you for two or more decades, so why wouldn’t you return the favor? No matter how right it feels, it’s also very hard. No one prepares you to become a caregiver to an aging parent. It’s easy to do everything they need and push your own feelings aside. Here are some of the things family caregivers stop to ask themselves.
What About Me?
Your mom wants to go to the store. You have other things that need doing, but you find it hard to tell her no. You have lunch to prepare, sheets to change and launder, a bathtub to clean, and floors to mop. You give your mom a task you know she can handle, but she quickly loses interest, so you have to finish dusting, too.
You need to think about yourself. Trying to do too much will lead to burnout. Set a schedule that leaves you time to be social with your mom. Do the mopping and sweeping one day and laundry and sheets another. Talk to other family members to find out who has time to help. Even if they can only visit for one or two hours a week, it’s better than nothing.
Is It Okay to Say No?
Sometimes caring for an aging parent feels like parenting a toddler. You never want to set boundaries or say no to your mom or dad, but sometimes you have to. If your dad is asking you to skip work and take him to lunch again, you need to tell him it’s just not possible. You need your income.
Instead of a blatant “no,” try a delay tactic. Tell him that today isn’t possible, but you’d love to do it on a day when there is less to do. Pick a day in the future and make plans to go out on that day.
Is This Really Benefiting The Two of Us?
Perhaps the most important question is if your role as a family caregiver is beneficial to your parent and yourself. If you’re burned out and short-tempered when your parent doesn’t do things as you’d want, you’re not helping the situation.
There’s no shame in taking a break. Hire an elder care professional to step in and take on some of the work you’ve been doing. Let a caregiver help your mom or dad get showered, shaved, and dressed. Use that free time to explore a hobby, get some work done, or spend time with friends.
Respite care is an essential part of being a family caregiver. You cannot do it all, and you shouldn’t risk your own mental and physical health trying to.