If you are caring for your aging parent or another loved one, you know how challenging it can be. Balancing their needs with those of your own spouse and children, keeping up with your career and social life, and just finding some time for yourself. It isn’t difficult to run yourself ragged. The good news is that you aren’t alone, and there are resources for family caregivers like yourself.
There are nearly 44 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. and 72 percent of them are caring for someone over the age of 50. It’s often the newly named “sandwich generation” that gets the brunt of it — sandwiched between the children they are raising and their elderly parents they are caring for.
So, what do you do? The first thing to know is that it’s okay to ask for help. When someone takes on so many responsibilities, it’s common to become stressed and burnout. Here are some resources and ideas for family caregivers to help prevent caregiver stress.
Ask Family for Help
It can be tough to be an only (adult) child or from a small family. But, if you have siblings or other family members who can help shoulder the weight of caregiving, ask them for help. Whether all you need is the occasional fill-in when you have a conflict, or a regular helper, talk with your family. Be open about the extent of your caregiving, and your personal needs. You may be surprised that others are willing to pitch in.
Your own children may even be able to help in their own way. If there are things they can do for themselves or the family like help cooking dinner, doing the laundry or cleaning up around the house, that free you up to help their grandparent, they may even be excited to contribute.
Consider a Respite Stay
A respite stay is available through a variety of organizations, including your local senior living community. Respite stays can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It can also be an excellent way to test out the community for the long-term. It allows you to run errands, catch up on work, visit the doctor, spend time with your family or go on vacation.
There are also local organizations that may offer respite care for just a few hours a week. It can be hard to accept additional help, but in the long run it’s best for everyone.
Senior living communities aren’t the only places where you can receive outside help. There are a variety of other organizations that provide free or discounted services, such as adult daycare and transportation for seniors and the disabled. Depending on their level of need, you may also check the local church, senior center, recreation center, veteran’s services and other city programs. Your local Area Agency on Aging is a great resource to find services near you.
In addition, there are organizations that provide emotional support for you as a caregiver. You may be caught up trying to meet all of your parent’s needs, while letting your own go unmet. Some people find both stress relief and good ideas from caregiver support groups. It also may be one of few opportunities you have to focus on yourself and get some time away from the house.