As an adult child with parents in their elderly years, it can be incredibly rewarding and enriching to give back and spend time caring for them after all the years they spent caring for you as you grew up from a child to the adult you are now. As satisfying as this experience can be though, it can also certainly be a real challenge to incorporate into your life while also trying to balance the many obligations adulthood has thrust upon you, such as your own family, your career, and your own personal time. A good place to begin is tracking your actions from day to day and making a schedule, so that you can have a better idea of what needs to be done, and when. This will allow you to recognize the times in your day and week where you can be available for your senior loved one.
There are a number of ways you can keep things running smoothly and reduce burnout risk. One good first step is keeping your aging parent involved. You don’t need to feel responsible for everyone and everything. By letting your senior parent remain as independent as possible, you can avoid taking on one hundred percent of the responsibilities. Spend time with them observing them and take an assessment of their capabilities. By watching them you can figure out what they’re able to do on their own, as well as what they could manage on their own with some small changes around their house to enhance their safety and allow them to confidently and safely do more tasks for themselves.
Talk to them about what they really need extra help with and how you can best support them. Perhaps there’s some programs or groups they would like to be a part of, and you can simply give them a ride to a rec center, learning annex, or friend’s house, which will allow them to stay active while giving you time to yourself.
While it can be difficult to discuss caring for your loved one with your family, especially if you’ve already been placed into the role of primary caregiver, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family roles that developed over childhood into adulthood can subconsciously be reinforced in adulthood, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of shouldering too much because you feel it’s expected. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many times, others don’t step up because they’re not sure what to do, or perhaps think you have it handled on your own. By being open to others about how they can share responsibilities, you can keep from getting overwhelmed by allowing them to do things like help with meals, housekeeping, or simply spending time with your loved one.
Work together to create a mutual schedule that fits your loved one’s needs, while sharing tasks in a fair and balanced manner. Make sure that everyone knows what they are responsible for, and can communicate with one another in the event changes need to be made.