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Caring for an Aging Parent: Family Members as Caregivers

Updated on August 27, 2020
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For more than 13 years, Cindy founded and owned a company that provided caregiving services to adults, mostly the elderly with dementia.


We usually don't 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 until a loved one suffers from an acute sudden-onset disease or injury, such as a stroke, car accident or heart attack. Often, when the need for caregiving services does arise, our first thoughts are, "What do I do now?"… or "What resources are available?"… or even more often just plain, "Help!" Even when we don’t get our questions answered right away, the situation demands 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 their loved one needs. 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!?!

As a care provider, you enable someone else to experience things they would not otherwise be able to accomplish by themselves.
As a care provider, you enable someone else to experience things they would not otherwise be able to accomplish by themselves. | Source

“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.

Reading to consider:

American Medical Association Guide to Home Caregiving
American Medical Association Guide to Home Caregiving
This book was one I often pulled from the shelves when I, a client or one of my caregivers had a question that I didn't have an immediate answer for. It's a valuable asset on every caregiver's shelf.

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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