Tips for Caregivers
Emotionally, caring for an elderly parent who always cared for you can be a disconcerting role reversal, and without addressing these new emotions, caregivers eventually feel frazzled, overwhelmed, and unable to deal with all the new changes. But with proper preparation, a lot of the stress that comes from taking on the role of primary caregiver for an elderly relative can be avoided.
One of the hardest things for caregivers is making decisions about their loved ones’ health in times of crisis. Without much time to act, and without being able to ask an elder what his or her wish might be, caregivers are thrust into making snap decisions. These major, life-altering decisions leave the caregiver often feeling guilty or anxious because they aren’t sure if the decision they arrived at was the best one or the one their elder would have chosen. Meanwhile, certain decisions – such as putting a relative into a nursing home – may lead to a family feud between siblings, in-laws, and other family members, which only increases the caregiver’s stress level.
This is one stress that can be avoided. Although having a discussion about future health care choices with an elder might be a difficult one, it’s better to work through a few awkward conversations when your elder is still cognitively competent than it is to have to make a health care decision for your relative that might lead to conflict within your family.
Another conversation you should have with your elderly relative sooner rather than later is the money conversation. Money is a sensitive topic, and children of aging parents (and the parents themselves) often feel unwilling to broach the topic. However, if an aging parent is showing signs that they soon may be unable to care for themselves, it’s important to have an open, honest, non-confrontational conversation about money early on. Things like adding your name to their checking account or double-checking home insurance plans (some home insurance plans become void if they are left empty for a period of time) might be uncomfortable, but they are absolutely necessary and can help prevent conflict and misunderstandings later on.
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Understanding this, make sure you do what you can to prevent the potential pitfalls of caring for an aging loved one.