Caring for an Aging Parent: Family Members as Caregivers

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We usually do not think about caregiving until one of our family members becomes diagnosed with a long-term, chronic illness, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Or if they suffer from an acute sudden onset disease or injury, such as a stroke, car accident or heart attack. Often, when something like this does happen, our first thoughts are, "What do I do now?"… or "What resources are available?"… or more often just plain, "Help!" Even if we don’t always get our questions answered right away, the situation demands that we take action now. We don’t have the luxury of putting it off.

After the initial shock and panic subside, family members often wonder whether they are equipped to provide the care that is necessary for their loved one. They question their skills, their abilities, and the demands on their time.

The answer to the question, "Can I function as a caregiver for my loved one?" is a resounding, “Yes!” and “No!” How's that for ambiguity!?!

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“Yes!” -- yes, you can function as a caregiver to your loved one! In fact, you are the primary caregiver whether or not you choose to provide the physical hands-on care. You are the one responsible for making the really important decisions that impact your loved one day in and day out, even if you decide to get help with the physical hands-on care.

And, “No!” -- If your family member requires assistance with tasks you are uncomfortable with or unable to do, then you and your family member are better off getting outside help! This assistance could be from a few hours per day, all the way to 24-hours per day. And, you should not feel bad or guilty about it!

The very best care provider for someone in your family is you! You are … because of your love, your commitment, and your knowledge of their likes and dislikes. This love, knowledge, and commitment makes you invaluable as the primary care provider.

And as a family member responsible for their care, you are the primary caregiver whether or not you provide the hands-on care. Some family members thrive on providing hands-on care while others prefer to avoid these tasks. One of your caregiving jobs is to oversee the care that is provided and to help make the very best decisions possible. Another requirement of this job is to know your own limits, weaknesses and strengths so that you can supplement the care you provide with outside assistance, as needed.

Even Children Need Caregivers
Even Children Need Caregivers | Source

At some point in time, the demands of caring for a loved one while maintaining your own health and managing your own life can become overwhelming! As a family care provider, you need to acknowledge that asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a necessity. If you don’t take care of yourself and you become ill, who will provide and/or direct the care of your loved one when you’re not able.

Professional caregivers are trained to provide caring, compassionate and skilled assistance that helps ensure your loved one does his or her very best each and every day. Professional care providers perform the necessary daily physical care tasks while allowing you to focus on maintaining your emotional relationship with your loved one.

Many times it is wise to get help with the tasks of caregiving so that you can maintain your relationship with your loved one as a family member. We interact with them differently as a caregiver than we do with them as a son or daughter. And sometimes, they respond to the requests of a stranger when they would not give a family member the same cooperation.

Caring and Loving
Caring and Loving | Source

So, to those who wonder whether they can provide care for a family member the answer is yes, and no. Yes, you should provide emotional support at all times. Yes, you should provide love and a positive attitude. And yes, you should provide hands-on care, as long as you are physically, mentally and emotionally capable, and not overwhelmed with these tasks. And, no, you should not provide hands-on care if you are unable or even unwilling to do so... Leave those tasks to others and don't feel guilty about it. Taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your loved one!



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Comments: "Caring for an Aging Parent: Family Members as Caregivers" 16 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

A balanced perspective is important, and this hub offers that.

Getting in-home help to care for a family member is often a better choice than placing them in a facility, however, the logistics of doing so are not easily addressed, and that's really too bad.

The details that have to be worked out can be overwhelming, but families, communities, and agencies could do a much better job of keeping people out of nursing homes than is currently being done.

It's good to highlight this topic and open up dialogues on it.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

RTalloni- Everything you stated is so true. It has been my desire to try and help keep as many elderly in their homes as is safely possible. Too often I have seen individuals in facilities who are then forgotten. It is so sad.

The cost of getting this care is sometimes prohibitive also because it typically is not covered with medicare.


Admiral_Joraxx profile image

Admiral_Joraxx 5 years ago from Philippines

Yeah, this is so true, its just sad a lot of people are leaving their old ones in facilities away from home. You got a very noble desire in your heart homesteadbound. And I'm pretty sure you will be able to achieve it with this kinds of eye opening hub. This is great! voted up!!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for your kind words, Admiral_Joraxx. I do hope to make a difference in as many lives as possible. Thank you for taking the time to share your views.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 4 years ago from US

I wish it were that easy for me. I had no family willing to help, not even for a day, so I went years only having time while Mom slept to have an appointment for myself or buy groceries. After a bad time for her in the hospital I could not take care of her anymore and the rest was a nightmare in nursing homes, with none of them taking care of my mom. Lie after lie, she was starved, never had therapy or ever walked again. They kept taking her off medicines her personal doctor gave her and gave her cheaper versions which caused several ER trips and finally 2 heart attacks in one day that killed her. ( a male nurse told me this) Mom's heart doctor said she had the heart of a young girl just a very few years before. I saw nightmares all around for years, even in a top notch rehab in Winston-Salem over a hospital. So many people talk about all these good places and people and out of three nursing homes and two hospitals they were all bad. In ER a nurse told me Mom wouldn't eat (she was down to 95 pounds) and when I walked over to her tray I saw her silverware had not even been unwrapped. This was what my moms last three years were and more than the last year I was not near enough to help out or watch over her. It killed her and almost did me. I warn everyone to watch very closely. I was fooled at first too. I believed all they told me. That they were giving her therapy although never when I went to watch it; she ate good except when I was there. Until it was too late.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Pollyannalana - stories like yours break my heart. I am so sorry that you and your mother had to go through so much pain. Caregiving is not something that someone can do entirely by themselves. It is unfortunate that with all the effort and energy that you were willing to expend that you could not get any help. Many nursing homes are very understaffed. And I know that some people are working because they need to but they are not the right kind of people to work in a place like that. You have to really care about the people and not be willing to take the short cut. it requires a lot of energy and patience.

But it is stories like yours that make me glad that I own an agency that provides non-medical in-home care for adults. We work with the family caregivers to provide the care that their loved one needs, and we do it in the home, or in nursing homes. It's good to make a difference in people's lives.

Once again, I am sorry for your pain. I hope you know that you did all that you could have done. You are only one person. I send blessings your way.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 4 years ago from US

I never understood that you are a Caregiving service, I will try to catch up on all that, but if you are then I know you do surely know much of what does go on. The first nursing home sent my mom home with pneumonia and I did not call for an investigation until I got her out for obvious reasons but found out that was too late for anything and Mom's records were missing the night before she come home and the person who told me that said those records are never to leave that facility but I know who (the administrator) and I know why (she knew I was going to report them) but they usually get by with all they do or don't do. Now that I can talk about it I really should write an article warning people and letting them know not to let anything go, call someone right then when it is happening. Yours sounds like something people might want to help look over loved ones. I will read further.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Pollyannalana - Yes, I think it would be good for you to write an article warning people to watch carefully. I think it is good to help as many people as we can.

Thanks once again for stopping by! It's always a pleasure to see you.


jeyaramd profile image

jeyaramd 4 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

Thank you for sharing this wonderful hub on caregiving. Many adults these days are caught in the sandwich generation of caring for their children as well as their elderly parents. Many of which have their own career and personal ambitions. Its hard to know where to compromise. Its great to see hubs that address this delicate issue. Thank you for your wonderful pointers. Its appreciated immensely. Great hub.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

jeyaramd - As life expectancy increases, we will see more and more people being sandwiched between generations needing care. It is a difficult thing to have to deal with. I hope to help in some small way with my Alzheimer's Series of articles. Thanks so much.


debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 4 years ago from Greece

Your hub gives some sound advice. As my parents get older, I do realize that as we are the only family living close by, that it will be down to me to provide the care they may one day need.

Hopefully it will be a few years yet before I have to take on board what you've written. Thank you for sharing.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

debbie roberts - Here's hoping your parents have many, many more years ahead of health and happiness. Thanks so much for stopping by!


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

With the world's aging population more and more of us will need to care for our parents at some stage. Horror stories of what happens to older people in nursing homes and other institutions are scary and I do hope my family never has to deal with such things. Thankfully my parents are still well and I hope they stay that way for many years.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

As an owner of an agency that works to help people provide care for their loved ones in their loved ones home, I agree that we should do more to provide care for our loved ones! Thanks so much!


lj gonya profile image

lj gonya 4 years ago

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer when it comes to being a caregiver, but the main focus, and the hardest to perceive, has to be from the elderly person's point of view. Too often in our rush to take care of them, we fail to give them what they need the most - a feeling of self worth. Age doesn't diminish that need.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

lj gonya - no, you are right. It is easy to get frustrated with them when the try so hard to do it their way often making our way so much harder! Thanks so much!

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