Watching parents age is hard. Stepping in to be their caregiver can be even harder:
- It’s hard emotionally. Role reversal can evoke fear, sadness and frustration.
- It’s hard mentally. Adults caring for a parent most likely already have very full plates. This addition to one’s mental load can cause other challenges.
- It’s hard financially. There are costs for care, equipment, time off work, home alterations, etc.
Yet, caring for aging parents is common. About 40 million Americans give unpaid care to older adults and adults with disabilities.1 Caregiving is a job in itself. But, many adults take on this role in addition to a full-time job. Then, there is the added task of managing their own household, plus their aging parents.
If you find yourself in this or a similar situation, know there is help.
Help for caregiving
“Caregiving” can mean many different things. Caregivers help those who need assistance with regular tasks. The help may be needed on a daily basis.2
The care may come in many different forms, such as:
- Emotional support
- Physical support
- Financial support
- Household maintenance and tasks
- Car maintenance
- Running errands
- Cooking, cleaning and gardening
- Pet care
Considering all the aspects of caregiving, it can help to share the tasks with others.
Create your caregiving dream team
Consider everyone in your life who may be able to help you with caregiving and make the ask. Candidates include a spouse, partner, siblings, children, other family members, friends, neighbors and volunteers. Be sure to include people who are not local. They can still help with tasks like research, making phone calls, paying bills, etc.
Once you’ve assembled your team, set up a meeting. Start the meeting by sharing a list of all caregiving duties that need to be covered. Then, ask who would like to do what. We all have different skill sets. Encourage everyone to take on tasks that fit theirs.
Once everyone knows what tasks they are going to take on, assign deadlines. These may be recurring tasks, as well. You may also want to set up weekly or monthly meetings to check in.
Cover all the bases!
You may also be able to get public support. The Administration on Aging offers services and programs that help seniors live independently at home and in their communities. One example is Area Agencies on Aging. They coordinate services like Meals-on-Wheels and homemaker assistance. Just type in your ZIP code on their site to locate one near you.
Help for the caregiver
No matter what your relationship with your parent, caregiving takes a toll. Family or friends who provide caregiving to their loved ones may experience:2
- Higher levels of depression and anxiety
- Higher use of psychoactive medications
- Worse self-reported physical health
- Compromised immune function
- Increased risk of early death
Caregiving also has its benefits. It can leave you with a sense of fulfillment. It can also inspire a feeling of being needed and a better understanding of the meaning of life.2 But, to avoid burnout and health issues, self-care is vital. You cannot give your all to your loved one if you’re not whole yourself.
Relax to recharge
Self-care can look like self-love—in a healthy way. Following are just a few ways you can practice self-care:3
- Be kind to yourself. Pay attention to negative self-talk. Replace it with positive truth.
- Do something you enjoy each day, even if only for a few minutes
- Practice boundaries. When you’re tired, you may not be your best self. Boundaries are important to help you remember who you are and what you will and will not accept.
- Get good rest, eat well and exercise
Help for all involved
Know that we’re here to help. Just talking out what you’re going through with a professional can make a big difference.
Learn more about our Mental Health service.
We also offer a Caregiving service to our members who are eligible. You can use this service to extend our General Medical care to loved ones. See if you have access to Caregiving.
Make your mental health a priority. Try 31 days of mindfulness.
Published August 9, 2023