April 12, 2010
"I keep trying to help mom on my own. I think I'm doing a good job and I don't want to burden anyone else with this, but seriously, there are times when I could really use some help…"
Caregiving is and should be a family responsibility. But oftentimes if a spouse is not available or able to be the caregiver, the primary caregiving responsibilities, for one or both parents, tend to fall on a sole family member - usually the eldest, grown daughter or the grown child that lives the closest to the senior.
The number of people providing caregiving is staggering. One quarter of American adults are currently providing care for an aging loved one. According to Home Instead Senior Care, of these adults, 72% provide the care without any outside help. However, 31% admit they'd like more help with caregiving, and one in four resent other family members who don't help out.
If you are a sole caregiver it's important that you avoid burnout and stress. You must take care of your health or you won't be any good to the person for whom you are providing care. One of the best ways to avoid becoming overstressed is to enlist the help of other family members and friends. And, you should do so without feeling bad or guilty for reaching out.
We know that asking for help is difficult for some people. The following are suggestions to get other family members or close friends involved:
- Give each person a responsibility, even if it is small, to help spread out the tasks. Even if your brother lives 1,000 miles away, make it his responsibility to call your elderly parent once a week to check in or to visit for a week each year to allow you to take your own family vacation.
- Divide up the tasks - have a specific family member who handles the medical aspects of your relative's care (talks with doctors, medication information, etc.), while another may be responsible for groceries/meals and another handles paying the bills. By dividing up the tasks, each person becomes more involved with the details or these tasks and can keep each other abreast of changes, issues, problems, etc.
- Make sure to converse with other family members about your elderly relative. If you don't express your concerns (e.g., debilitating health, amount of time you are spending caring for them, etc.), you can't expect your other family members to know what you are thinking and feeling.
- Don't be a control freak. If you want to control every aspect of the care, other family members may be less apt to step in, thinking you have it all under control. They'll be less able to understand your stress level if they believe you are creating it yourself.
- If you don't have other family members to help out, consider joining a local caregiver support group or involving outside friends, church members or professional caregivers to share the duties.
Once you have enlisted support, check out these other tips for how to manage caregiver stress.
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