Caring for your adult parents can both feel like an honor and honestly, a burden.
Due to all of the feelings that are associated with your parents, chances are good that if you’re your parents’ caregiver, you feel guilty. And because you know your parents’ best, they often want you to be the only person who provides personal care for them, adding to your belief that you always need to be there for them, however unrealistic this actually is.
In this article, we will discuss the important new trends in aging, advice for adult children who feel they always need to be available for their aging parents, long-term care for elderly parents, and how caregiving may help take some of the load off your shoulders.
Important New Trends in Aging
Additionally, in the modern world, the age dynamic between adult children and their parents has changed.
Once upon a time ago, it was believed that grown ups children who took care of aging parents were in their 40’s or 50’s. While that’s still the case, the age of the adult children of aging parents has moved up: Now, 10% to 12% of people aged 60 to 70 are caregiving elderly parents, according to U.S. News and World Report.
This means that people who were once considered candidates for personal care themselves are now expected and expect themselves to care for parents who are in their 80’s or 90’s. Once people hit this age, they face chronic conditions, like alzheimer’s disease or cerebral dementia, that require around-the-clock care. This trend is truly unsustainable, regardless of the feelings you and your family may have about caring for your aging parents.
If you want to get off this rollercoaster ride, then you need to step back and assess what you can realistically do for your aging parents and what you need to let go of. Always being there for them isn’t realistic. You need a plan.
Keep a Log of Your Parents’ Condition
Start the process of extricating yourself from your parental duties by keeping a log of all of the things you do for your parents. Chances are that these chores have come upon you so gradually, you may not even be aware of how much you’re doing to help.
Here’s a checklist of possible activities you could be doing for your parents. This list comes from the Aging in Place organization. It may not be exhaustive, but it’s a start. The list includes both in home care and external care duties.
- have to feed your parents?
- are you expected to exercise older adults/ parents
- help them move around or get out of a chair?
- dress them or bathe them?
- help them groom themselves?
- help them in the bathroom?
- cook meals for them?
- clean their homes?
- shop for them?
- run errands?
- manage their money or pay their bills for them?
- make calls for them?
- Give them their meds?
If you answered “yes” to a number of these tasks, then you are one of 40+ million unpaid caregivers in the U.S.
Accept That You Can’t Be Everywhere
To keep your sanity, you need to ask yourself if you can delegate some of these tasks to your siblings or to a hired caregiver. It’s important that you answered the questions in the above section honestly, especially if your care hours have started to encroach on your work hours. The truth is you cannot be everywhere and do everything. There just isn’t enough of you to go around.
Nor can you afford to stop working a job to care for your parents. You have your own retirement to think about. If you’re like most people in the sandwich generation, you have your own obligations that haven’t gone away just because you have to care for your parents.
If you work, your boss will expect you to still show up, even if you’re exhausted. If you still have kids at home, they still expect you to make sure that there are groceries in the fridge and that you participate in their school activities.
At some point, something’s got to give, especially when your care hours start infringing upon all aspects of your life. Aside from this, you want the time you do spend managing elderly parents to feel rewarding. Giving yourself a break allows you to deal with them with a smile (more often than you would if you got burned out).
It also allows you to gain some much-needed perspective. End-of-life care takes a lot out of you emotionally. It can be a very sacred and certainly a very personal time for your family. You don’t want the long term care you give to your parents to be tinged by the feelings of guilt that can be associated with their end-of-life care.
Make Lists of Tasks
Once you know what you do for your parents, then you can make a list of tasks to delegate to your siblings and to other caregivers. You should also know that certain tasks, like cooking and transportation allow for a bit of creativity.
For example, some adult children of aging parents have started to use meal delivery services, like Hello Fresh or Plated. These services will deliver meals to your parents’ home and allow you to forego some in home care responsibilities.
Other services, like Lyft or Uber can be charged for errand-running. This is a better deal for parents who are still mostly mobile but who are driving less.
More personal tasks, like hygiene, the administration of meds, or money management can be reserved for trusted family and friends. As well, caring for parents facing cerebral dementia or alzheimer’s disease cannot be assigned to just anyone. Giving away “easier tasks,” like meal preparation opens up your life to do more of these more personal tasks for mom and dad. This gives you a more realistic idea of what managing elderly parents means for your family.
Look Into Alternative Care
Which leads us to assisted living.
Assisted living has been a Godsend for adult children of aging parents who need to put their parents in long term care. Caregiving elderly parents will eventually mean full-time personal care. For some, this may mean around-the-clock in home care. Even the most organized adult child caregiver is eventually going to have to concede that the best-laid plans, the most extensive list won’t take the place of more intensive care demands.
The good news is that these facilities allow your parents to enjoy an amazing quality of life. Many assisted living facilities do, in fact, encourage grown ups children to become involved in their parents’ day-to-day care, even while in the care of a licensed care staff.
This may mean that they help exercise older adults or feed them lunch, but it may also mean that these adult children provide emotional support to their parents and let the professionals in the facility take care of more.
Participating in the care of parents who live in such facilities can help you, as the adult child of your aging parents, feel like you’re taking care of mom and dad but not to the detriment of your own life. It also means that you’ve accepted the fact that you can’t always be there for your parents.
However, do know that if you go this route, what you give up in hours spent with your parents will be replaced with hours enjoyed with your parents.