If nurturing isn’t your nature, you’re not alone. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver.
Are You Reluctant to Be a Caregiver?
There are some people who are natural-born caregivers. They grew up wanting to be nurses and occupational therapists and dental assistants.
There are other people who really struggle with taking up the mantle of caregiving. Perhaps their own health or personal or career commitments leave little room for them to take on caregiving responsibilities. For others, it may be a difficult relationship with the person in need of care that gives them pause.
If you don’t feel like you have the tools, time, or resources to provide care for a chronically ill or aging loved one, that’s OK. It doesn’t make you a bad person — and it doesn’t mean that you are indifferent or abandoning your loved one, either.
In fact, this self-awareness will actually help you care for your loved one. Perhaps you visit, arrange other sources of care, handle financial issues, or advocate for your loved one’s well-being. When you do these things, you are providing care — you’re just not committing to more than you can handle.
What Happens When You’re ‘Forced’ Into Caregiving?
So what happens if you ignore the signals that providing daily hands-on care for an aging loved one isn’t in your wheelhouse?
People who become caregivers against their natural instincts — maybe they feel guilty and do it out of a sense of obligation, perhaps there is simply no other choice — often eventually feel negative and resentful. When resentment builds up over time, it can lead to caregiver burnout.
That’s why it’s important to not feel guilty if you realize you can’t say yes to caregiving. Honor your understanding of what is best for you. Boundaries aren’t punishments or retributions but rather a means of remaining physically and emotionally healthy. Without setting those realistic boundaries and clear expectations, caregiving can place tremendous strain on your relationships.
Where Can You Go for Caregiving Help?
If you’re not cut out to be a caregiver, there are resources available to help you find the care your loved one deserves. Here are some things to consider.
Hold a Family Meeting
Caring for an aging loved one should be a group effort. It is easy for families to fall into common traps, assuming, for example, that one sibling will become Dad’s caregiver because she has a background in health care or lives nearby. Not discussing caregiving needs and responsibilities is a common cause of family conflict.
The best way to work cooperatively as a family and to ensure your loved one gets the care they want and need is to hold regular family meetings.
Consider Home Care
Home care includes any professional support services that allow a person to live safely in their home — including personal care and companionship, private duty nursing care, and home health care — and it can be customized to your loved one’s needs.
If your loved one needs assistance with instrumental activities of daily living, such as grocery shopping, food prep, and housekeeping, home care may be a good option. Just make sure you compare the costs to assisted living. People automatically assume home care is going to be much cheaper, but depending on the number of hours a week you need, the cost might very quickly meet or exceed assisted living.
Try a Respite Stay
If you want to test the waters of assisted living, a respite stay at an assisted living community might be just the thing you need. By giving you the opportunity to have a 30-day trial run, a respite stay will offer your loved one to the chance to immerse themselves in a warm and welcoming environment where they can meet other people their age and engage in activities geared toward older adults. They'll stay in a fully furnished suite and enjoy three meals a day, housekeeping and laundry services, personalized care, medication assistance, and a host of stimulating and therapeutic activities based on individual needs.
It will also offer you time to figure out a more sustainable caregiving solution. However, it can be difficult to begin that conversation and get your loved one on board. So, before you do, make sure you’re prepared to have it, and check out these tips for talking to them about a respite stay.
Explore Assisted Living
Sometimes professional care is necessary for the safety or comfort of your loved one and/or for you to have some life apart from caregiving. Research shows that moving into an assisted living community comes with quality-of-life advantages that, often, living at home cannot match. They also offer health benefits that could prolong health.
Feel guilty about the idea of moving Mom or Dad to assisted living? Don’t. Moving to assisted living does not mean your loved one is abandoned: You can still spend as much time with them as you can, talk frequently with the care partners and team members, and manage their overall care.
By helping your loved one plan ahead for long-term care, you can avoid the stress and regret of hasty decisions and put them in a well-chosen senior living arrangement. Plus, you will also get to be their son or daughter or husband or wife again. You will still be your loved one’s advocate, just not their full-time caregiver.
Talking to a loved one about assisted living for the first time is no easy task. It’s likely to stir a wide range of emotions for you both. If you’re considering talking to your parent about assisted living, this checklist offers nine tips for navigating these difficult and emotional conversations. Download it, print it out, and use these tips to begin rich conversations about the future.