With the parents of the “baby boomers” aging, many boomers find themselves in a situation where they need to provide care for their elderly parents. According to an article from CNN.com, 76 million babies were born in what are now considered the baby boomer years (from 1946 to 1964) and their parents are currently aging and in need of full-time care. Depending on the particular physical and mental health situation of your parent, care may become a full-time job, which may require you to leave your current job. If you have decided that you are going to be the sole or primary caregiver for your aging parent and you have worked your whole life, what are some steps you can take to make the transition from the workforce to full-time caregiver easier?
- Take advantage of community programs to help with your aging parent.
You do not have to handle everything when it comes to caring for your parent. There are many community programs, such as adult day care and senior centers, that your loved one can participate in so you won’t feel that you have to shoulder all of the responsibility. Also, the federal government has a federally mandated Area Agency on Aging in your county or city, so call them for any information about programs available in your particular area. The people that work here are knowledgeable about local programs and services available for your aging loved one. There are two websites you should know about, as well: www.benefits.gov and www.Benefitscheckup.org. If you gather up all of your aging loved one’s information (such as their income, health, disability, property, education level, and more) to have on hand, both of these websites will ask you questions about your loved one’s situation. After you have answered all of them, you will get a list of benefits, government programs, and services that will benefit your loved one. Most people have no idea that there are programs available and these two sites can reveal a lot of great resources.
- Talk about your situation with others, especially siblings and other family members.
This is one of the most important and beneficial things you can do when you take on caring for your aging loved one full-time. After working in a social environment, sometimes it can be isolating to talk only to one person day after day. This is why it is so important to keep siblings and family members up to date on you and your elderly family member’s situation. Being open and honest will not only keep you social, but it will keep family relationships strong and everyone will be included in the decision-making processes.
- Use this time to get to know your loved one and become closer to them.
Many people don’t know their family members as well as they’d think, especially parents. Use this time to talk to them and find out their story. Ask them questions you would never have asked before. Tell them about your own life. This is a great time to become closer and to learn and record your own family history. It’s wonderful bonding time.
- Talk to a professional if you find yourself overwhelmed by the process.
This is very important. Many caregivers can suffer from depression because they feel isolated from their former careers, friends, families and other situations. If you feel yourself becoming sluggish in your caregiving role, consider taking the time to talk to a professional about your feelings. Many family members may sympathize with your situation, but they cannot empathize because they have never been a part of it. This is okay, and it does not make you wrong to want to talk to someone about your daily frustrations. It is healthier for you as a caregiver in the long run, and ultimately, healthy for your aging loved one.
- Make some time for yourself.
This is important in any kind of relationship: family, friend, or romantic partner. You must have time to carve out for yourself in order for you to continue caring for a loved one. Do you have family that lives close by? Take that opportunity and ask them stay with your loved one for a couple hours while you do whatever you’d like. If you are far away from other friends and family members, as mentioned earlier, use adult daycare services or hire a professional caregiver for as much or as little time as you need. Sometimes the best thing for your loved one is for you to take some time for yourself. Leaving the workforce for a long period of time for any reason can be difficult and the transition may be rocky. It is important to remember that caring for an aging loved one full-time is a chance to give back for when they may have taken care of you. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed, but when you do it is important to take care of those feelings right away. It’s not healthy for you or your loved one if you are stressed out or depressed. You will be able to be the caregiver you want to be when you are emotionally whole and healthy. This is why you put the air mask on yourself in an airplane before you place it on your loved ones.