Caregiving for a family member is a labor of love, but it can be easy to get caught in the daily cycle of trying to get personal stuff done, and that often comes at the cost of sacrificing the two things that matters most – your relationship with your aging parent and your own health. Here are some proactive steps you can take to be a nurturing caregiver for your mom or dad, while also taking some of the stress off of yourself.
1. Optimize your resources. In our diligence to address our aging parent’s every need, we often invest in all sorts of resources – from house cleaners to homecare workers to transportation providers – all of which need to be scheduled and managed, stealing valuable time away from our loved ones. While some services specialize in one type of care, there are others that provide additional services that aren’t always advertised. Ask around and try to find a provider that offers multiple services, so you can consolidate and have more time available to spend where it matters most. For example, in-home care providers like ComForCare offer home care, as well as cooking, transportation, house cleaning and more. With a little research, odds are good that you can find a solution that cuts down on the number of resources that you need to manage, and lightens your stress.
2. Build in some extra peace-of-mind. You can’t always be there to check on your parent’s wellbeing or make sure something doesn’t happen while they’re alone. For peace of mind, consider renting out a room in their home to a compatible roommate. The concept of housesharing is becoming popular among aging adults because it opens up so many possibilities – extra security, added income to defray costs, companionship and another set of hands (and eyes) to help out around the house. Services such as Silvernest specialize in finding perfect housemate for your mom or dad, and make the process safe and simple by conducting background checks, helping to get the lease in place and facilitating payments.
3. Teach them the power of FaceTime. A little technology can go a long way. Programs such as FaceTime and Skype can help you stay better connected, so when you can’t be there you can “see” how they’re really doing – no more hiding behind the phone. As an added bonus, an iPad can help them stay more engaged with their friends and other family members, too. This can be a great way to share caregiving responsibilities with long-distance siblings, and provide multiple touches each week for your parent.
4. Put groceries on automatic delivery. Nutrition is often a challenge for aging adults, mostly because their transportation options are limited. Using a service such as Amazon or Instacart, you can schedule groceries to be delivered fresh every week. Most of these services offer plan-ahead options, so you can ensure that your parent is getting a well-balanced array of food items. If your mom or dad is not up for cooking, look for services like Mom’s Meals, that deliver prepared or ready-to-cook meals. Another option is to ask your in-home care provider to cook while they’re at the house.
Being in the role of caregiver is stressful even in the best of circumstances. Remember the analogy of the flight attendant encouraging you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others. As a caregiver you create an ecosystem of people and resources around your parent; otherwise, if you fall apart, so does the entire system!