Q. I should have written to you long ago, frankly I’ve been in denial and need some direction. My parents had been very active and independent until this past year. I would stop over at the house every week to see what I could do to help them out. Now I realize they need much more assistance than I had been providing. I am absolutely clueless as to what the next step is. Can you give me some guidance?
A. It would take a book to do your question justice. Here are some action steps to at least get you started on your journey of caregiving. Before you do anything else give considerable thought as to how involved you intend to be in the future. Do not take on this role unless you are physically and emotionally prepared for the challenges you will face as your parents continue through the aging process. Caregiving requires dedication, time and patience. It can be very rewarding while at the same time stressful. It is never easy to watch a parent deteriorate and perhaps that is why you have delayed reaching out for assistance.
Start to explore options available to provide care beyond what you are capable of doing. There are numerous services in the community to help both yourself and your parents. Take inventory of what exactly your parents need to continue living in their home. It could benefit you to have a care manager come out to the home to conduct an objective assessment of your parents functional status. Working with a professional has many advantages. The care manager can provide information on what services would best meet your parents needs, eligibility guidelines for the services, costs involved (if any) and provide emotional support for you. Do not assume you need to take on this responsibility by yourself.
Consider joining a caregiver support group. You might be amazed at how much you could learn from others who are in a similar situation as yours. Go to your local library and check out books on caregiving, educate yourself as much as possible. There are also numerous on-line sites dealing with this subject which could give your further insight on resolving problems which may arise. Talk with your friends who may also be involved with caring for their parents or older relatives.
Don’t neglect your own well-being during this process. Focus on exercise, eating well, getting sufficient sleep and maintaining social relationships. Self care is not selfish or self -indulgent, it will be vital to prevent burnout. Pay attention to your personal health care needs. Seek and accept support.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available for no cost consultations in the home, office or community. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., AgeInfo Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc.