The need to provide care to an older parent is often something that sneaks up on you. It can be a scary, unnerving process.
Our research on caregiver isolation and family dynamics puts us in a unique position to help. Our teams throughout our system of Home Helpers offices understand the challenges facing a client’s entire support system: spouses, children, siblings.
The Caregiving Dilemma
We've recognized a common theme among family caregivers: a loss of choice and control. The daughters, sons, and spouses struggling to care for aging loved ones describe how they can’t enjoy their family relationships anymore because their caregiving duties are overwhelming them.
This loss of choice and control has been so prevalent in these conversations that we started identifying this problem as the Caregiving Dilemma.
Advice for New Caregivers
Here are three pieces of advice, gathered from my Home Helpers colleagues, for adult children who are new to helping with the care of an older parent.
1) Take care of yourself.
When family caregivers really begin to feel the Caregiving Dilemma, what results is “burnout, frustration, loss of control and even in some cases extreme anger,” according to Mitch Williams, co-owner of Home Helpers of San Mateo, California.
It's crucial to manage the negative effects caregiving can have on your life, not only for your own well-being but because the care recipient is relying on you to be healthy, too.
2) Don’t try to go solo.
Taking on the care of an elderly loved one by yourself is impractical. Caregiving should be a team effort, so involve your other family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and professional care teams. Caregiver burnout is an avoidable risk.
As Kim McCutcheon from the Jacksonville, Alabama, Home Helpers, says: "Caregiver burnout is a real thing, and if you are the only one providing the care, what will your loved one do if something happens to you?”
3) Hire only the best senior care professionals.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a reputable caregiving agency to help provide care to your family. Meet the owner. If you don’t like him or her, it’s indicative of how your experience with the agency will be.” —Kim McCutcheon
For more advice from my Home Helpers colleagues, read my previous post: How Families Are Fighting the Caregiving Dilemma.