Caregiver Support & Supporting Your Elderly Parents
By: Camille Evans, LMSW, ACHP-SW
There are a growing number of adult children overwhelmed by the challenges of accessing care and managing the needs of their parents. Every situation is very different and every family experiences different challenges.
For some just talking with parents about healthcare care needs can be difficult – no matter the age of your parents. Even the idea of discussing the possible disability or dependence can be overwhelming. If your parents are still independent and active, this is the perfect time to begin the conversation. It is never too soon. Waiting until there is a crisis limits the options and increases the stress of the situation for everyone immensely. The reality is, even when you know your parents’ wishes and planning has been done, being a caregiver to your aging parents brings many unforeseen challenges. As you begin to assist in navigating our fragmented and confusing heath care and insurance systems, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are the best advocate for your loved one and have the right to keep asking questions and demanding the best possible care.
So what is your greatest weapon of defense? Educate yourself. Know what Medicare covers and what it does not. Do not assume that Medicare will pay for things such as facility care or in-home care services. Seek out professionals you feel you can trust and be willing to let others help you in finding the best care options. There is not a “one fits all” solution and in some cases there is no easy answer. The right healthcare professionals can walk along side you to find the answers that work best for your family.
Throughout the processing of caring for your elderly parent(s), be mindful of the importance of self-care. There is a tendency of many caregivers to put the needs of everyone else before their own. This may work in the short-term, but in the long haul it can lead to illness, frustration, resentment, depression, and/or burnout.
You have to take care of yourself. Good self-care means you continually need to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you don’t do it for yourself, then do it for your loved one. You have to take care of yourself if you want to continue giving good care. Some ways to be good to you are:
- Stay socially connected and involved with activities and people that bring you pleasure.
- Go for a nice walk or take a hot bath to relieve stress.
- Read a book.
- Talk to someone who can help you look at things more objectively, perhaps a friend, fellow caregiver, or a professional counselor.
- Recognize and deal with signs of stress or depression.
- Be honest with friends and family about your needs. It is OK to ask for help!
We are entering a historic time when the face of heath care is changing not only because of political actions, but due to the Baby Boomer population nearing retirement age and a longer life expectancy than ever before. This is going to require a shift in how we view long-term care planning. It is going to require families coming together in caring for loved ones in need. However, with the families I have worked with, those that seek outside support fare the overwhelming responsibilities of caregiving more successfully. Begin the conversation now and seek support from the local healthcare agencies that offer it. Give your loved ones a priceless gift and be their healthcare advocate.
Written by Camille Evans, LMSW, ACHP-SW
Executive Director of Heart ‘n Home in Emmett, Idaho