There’s a natural desire to want to give back to our parents. They took care of us when we needed help and nurturing, and the time may come when they need help from us. Society and others generally expect we will take care of our elderly parents, too. Though you may hear “people don’t take care of the elderly like they used to”, more people are caregiving than ever before. As a matter of fact, the value of unpaid, family care exceeds the value of paid home care and Medicare spending combined.
However, what “taking care of our elderly parents” means is less clear than, say, taking care of children. Does it mean we provide all the physical care along with emotional and practical support? For some of us, that may not even be physically possible. Do we move our parents in with us or vice versa? And, since we may have siblings, who does what? What about what our parents want? Eldercare is not a “role reversal” as some state. These are your parents, and they are adults, so it cannot be the same as taking care of a child. You have a history together. Unfortunately, for some people that might be a complex and unhappy history.
Additionally, what we were taught about family roles, our value and much more complicates matters further. Our “inner child” remains with us even when we are adults. And, this inner child often becomes a stronger presence when we face helping elderly parents.
Feelings of Failure and Rethinking Caregiving
For all of the reasons above, it can truly feel like a major failure when we realize we need to seek help for our parents. It inevitably brings up feelings of guilt. Even if we have a happy family and run a multimillion dollar company, suddenly we’re that inner child again.
Many of us hold the belief that caregiving means doing it all. We think of it as something personal, therefore something we have to handle personally. But, succeeding at caregiving often means we need help.
- Eldercare issues can be quite complicated to navigate. Suddenly, we need to learn about Medicare, Medicaid, an array of other programs, medical diagnoses, medications etc. We don’t feel guilty reaching out to a CPA for our business taxes or a financial planner to help manage our money. Yet, each of these areas of eldercare can require a similar level of expertise.
- Many of us live at a distance from our elderly parents. About 7 million, or 15% of caregivers, are long-distance caregivers. And, moving to be closer is not always the answer (or even possible).
- With an average age of 49, most caregivers are still working and perhaps raising a family. If we want to manage all these roles well, we can’t do it alone.
- Our parents’ wishes play an important role in how we care for them (and the challenges involved). This, along with relationship factors between the various family members, might call for some external intervention. An expert, neutral party (i.e. a care manager) can provide planning tips, offer independent evaluation and help with mediation. How do we handle Mom’s refusal to move in with us when that’s the only plan we think will work? What about Dad’s statement that he won’t let his kids provide his personal care? We can’t simply say “You’re going to do what I say” so we need to understand options and find different approaches.
Tips for Caregiving Success
- Approach caregiving like other complex aspects of life as an adult. Seek quality information (you’re already on the right path being here…make sure to sign up for our updates too!). Consider setting up a consultation with an expert.
- Talk to someone about conflicting feelings or family disagreements. It’s hard enough to manage caregiving when you have great relationships and support.
- Understand there’s no one way to do things and seek a supportive community. Our Caregivers Community on Facebook is one example. You may sometimes need a place to share frustrations (and victories) and seek ideas or reassurance.
- Realize getting help for your parents is actually a success! You may be failing yourself and your loved one trying to do it all. Many of us struggle to get our parents to accept help, but we have tips for you in that case too.
You don’t need to do it alone
Talk to one of our eldercare experts about your situation. Find out what help is available. Make life better for your family.