Caregivers struggle with their jobs every day. As one issue is solved, a new challenge arises. When caregivers take care of an elderly family member, the roles are reversed. Now the caregiver is the “adult” and must find the best way to “get through to” an elderly parent….and to understand their needs.
Here are just a few ways to help get you in the right “mindset” for caregiving – and we hope make your life a little easier.
Remember who the person really is
Your parent is likely different mentally and/or physically than the way you remember from years past. To respond to your parent’s needs, you have to know him/her – and you do, probably better than most people. Your parent may have changed, but they are the same person on the inside. Always keep that person in mind as you give care.
Remember to set boundaries
When it comes to personal boundaries – what can be talked about and what physical assistance can be given – flexibility and complete honesty is key. Topics that may have been taboo at one time — like toileting and bodily functions – are now essential subject matter. Your parent may have trouble bathing or getting on and off the toilet. However, they are probably embarrassed to talk about it or get help. If so, be the one to the start the conversation. Be candid, empathetic and honest. Help them feel comfortable about communicating their feelings to you, then have the courage to tell them how you feel. Once the topic is addressed or the assistance is given, it will likely become a non-issue. So face it head on.
Patience really is a virtue when it comes to caregiving. There will be times when everything your parent does is annoying, frustrating or downright dumb. But don’t take it out on them. Remove yourself from the situation for a moment, take a deep breath and address the situation once you calm down. This is very important to maintaining your own mental health. Stress and pent-up frustration take a big toll on caregivers.
Remember! You are not alone. There are others who struggle with similar issues and support and discussion groups can help in providing you a different perspective.
Your suggestions for caregivers are very insightful, and I expect they will be helpful for many who experience such negative feelings. Treating the person like a human being is always a great start, and can seem like a rather obvious tip. However, after many days of enthusiastic caregiving, it is easy to forget that they are in fact people and not a pet or otherwise.