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How Do You Care for an Aging Parent Without Losing Yourself in the Process?
Making the decision to take care of an elderly parent is a no-brainer for a lot of people. Your parents sacrificed and took care of you. Of course you'll be there when they need it most.
For other people, it's not that easy. There are a lot of factors that come into play when deciding what to do with Mom or Dad. A spouse, children, location, money, medical needs, etc. can help or hinder the decision making process. Many people end up deciding to put Mom or Dad in a retirement or nursing facility, because it's what is best for everyone.
This article is for those people who have decided to provide care to their parent(s) themselves. Here are some tips for being the best caregiver you can be, without losing your mind.
A Balancing Act
If you are a parent yourself, you need to make sure your children stay a priority. You can take care of Mom and/or Dad and still make time for your kids. If you put caring for your parent before your own children, they will likely resent Grandma or Grandpa.
Your spouse needs to stay a priority as well. If your are blessed enough to have a spouse who supports you caring for your parents, then make sure they know they're appreciated and important.
It's a balancing act, for sure. If you try to be everything to everyone all the time, you will lose your mind. Here are some tips for keeping that balance.
1. Set priorities for each day. - If Dad has a doctor's appointment, then that becomes the priority. If your daughter has a dance recital, that takes precedence. At the beginning of the week, let everyone in the family know what's ahead for the coming week. If everyone is aware of the schedule, and they can see that they're important enough to be on that schedule too, things will go more smoothly.
2. Learn that two letter word. - "No" - Saying no to our parents is not something we were taught to do, but when we're trying to balance caring for them and our family(and ourselves), it becomes a necessary word to have in our vocabulary. I remember the first time I had to tell my Dad he couldn't go to Walmart with me. He loved to go on these trips with me, but it was a laborious adventure each time. This particular day, I really just needed to do the grocery shopping by myself - for my sanity. I told Dad he needed to stay home this time, and I promised that the next time he could go with me. Dad seemed surprised that I told him no, but he accepted it. After that first time saying no, it becomes easier. Remember, you can say no without being disrespectful.
3. Expect and Accept help from others. - "She's my Mom. I can't expect my spouse and children to help." Wrong! Everyone in the family should be pitching in. You are one big family. Everyone should be helping. Accepting help from other family members gives you a break, but it also has some other advantages. My children really enjoy doing things for their Grandfather. Also, Dad loves spending time with them. It's a win-win-win scenario!
4. Live your life. - Life shouldn't come to a screeching halt. Having an elderly parent around doesn't have to mean that everything else suffers. Your kids will still have ball games, dances, sleep-overs, etc. You should make time for regular dates with your spouse. My Dad loves that "life" is happening all around him. He would feel like a burden, if he thought we were "suffering" with him here. Show your mom or dad a happy family living a happy life.