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Five things everyone needs to do if their caring for an aging parent

There comes a time when many of us have to carry the responsibility of reversing parenting roles by being a support system for those that raised us. Becoming a caregiver to a parent is never an easy task, especially if they are battling through a health issue. Caring for your parents can come with many different emotions, so we spoke with Relationship Therapist Ashley Howe about how you can cope with the situation. 

MANAGE YOUR GUILT

Not being the primary caregiver for a parent can come with a feeling of guilt. For those that are unable to be by their parents side 24/7, feeling as though you aren't doing enough is common. It's important to remember that having other obligations that prevent you from being a full-time caregiver is completely normal! However, if you continuously tell yourself that you should be there all the time your guilt will never diminish. Instead, adjusting your perspective and mindset can change the way you feel on a regular basis.

Rather than fixating on being a full-time caregiver, remind yourself that doing a "good job" is equivalent to visiting a few evenings a week, calling occasionally and being very present when you do get to visit. You can adjust your mindset based on whats ideal for your current situation with your parents, whether that means creating a plan of the things you're going to do when you see them or devoting specific times and days to visit/call. 

Regardless of what “home” looks like, whether it’s a family home, retirement facility or downsized condo, Home Instead works with families to determine what’s best for their aging loved one, and allow them to stay where they feel most comfortable. 

DON'T SKIP OUT ON SELF-CARE

Spending the majority of your time caring for someone else can often result in having less time for yourself. Skipping out on self-care may feel like a fair sacrifice however, it's not one you should make. It's important to still live your life as normally as you can by getting enough sleep, eating full meals and making time to unwind. Whether your version of self-care is curling up into bed with a good book or soaking in a bubble bath, pencil in a daily time that you can practice self-care. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare at the end of each day, take advantage of it!

CHECK IN WITH YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM

If you've been feeling overwhelmed lately, it may be time to check in with your close friends or family. Unloading your emotions can help reduce some of your stress. Spousal support is great, but so is having an outsider's perspective! Someone such as a doctor or therapist can help give great insight without you having to worry about saying the wrong thing. If you prefer the comfort of someone familiar, turn to someone you trust that will allow you to speak your mind without judgement. 

DELEGATE IN AN EFFECTIVE WAY

When things are piling up and you can't take on any more tasks, finding ways to delegate is essential. However, delegating in an effective way is much more important than just assigning tasks to whoever is free. For example, if your aunt happens to be free but is squeamish and not a fan of the medical aspect of caregiving, it's probably best not to assign her any duties that involve going to medical appointments or administering medicine. Instead, you can ask your aunt what is naturally good at. This will help you figure out what tasks she can take on the next time you feel way too busy! Sliding a few things off your plate to others that you can rely on is crucial when it comes to caregiving.

FIND MEANING IN "CAREGIVING"

If you have young children that you care for in combination to your elderly parent, try and combine both responsibilities into ways that will allow you and your family to appreciate the time. Brainstorm to see if there a shared activity that your kids and their grandparents can take on together. Whether it's playing board games, watching movies or painting a masterpiece, having a common ground can make the time spent together a lot more enjoyable. If it's too difficult to bring your kids along when caring for your parents, get them to connect over a phone call or even FaceTime! The beauty of technology is that they don't have to be in the same room to share quality time.