Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming Your Parent’s Caregiver
Are you ready for the demands, responsibilities — and rewards — of becoming your parent’s caregiver?
Ask yourself these questions first.
Becoming Your Parent’s Caregiver
It’s an all-too-familiar scenario for millions of adults: Dad and Mom are getting older and can no longer complete their day-to-day activities without some assistance. “But” they say, “please don’t put me in a home.”
Many seniors prefer to age in place, but when a senior parent’s health declines and they need immediate or sudden help, then we may be faced with the critical decision of whether or not to provide that care ourselves.
Many of us do end up deciding to become family caregivers, a demanding role that often includes advocating for your loved one, coordinating providers and performing home medical care tasks.
In fact, over 65.7 million Americans currently provide care for a family member or loved one, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, and 36% of those are caring for an elderly parent.
Being prepared for the role of caregiver means taking a lot of different factors into consideration. You will need to ask yourself hard questions about how your own availability and caregiving capabilities will affect your ability to provide effective care — for your loved one and yourself.
Asking these questions early will help you prepare for a role that, for many adults, comes as a sudden surprise, leaving them feeling like they aren’t ready to be caregivers. This was the case for Martha Stettinius, author of “Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir.” She spent eight years as primary caregiver for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, and many of the demands of caregiving came as a surprise:
“I never imagined that I would become not only the main provider of her appointments, clothing, food, shelter and transportation, but also her primary source of entertainment and engagement,” Martha says.
“I thought that if I just tried hard enough I could be all things to all people.”
She found herself juggling the roles of employee, mother and wife, as well as handling all the requirements of caregiving.
“Like all caregivers, I did the best I could with the information and support I could find, but I know now that I would do a number of things differently if I had to do it all again.”
Being a Caregiver: Questions to Ask Yourself
The truth is, being a full-time caregiver can affect your emotional, mental and physical health, and it can have unforeseen effects on your relationship with your parent, as well as your other relationships.
Being adequately prepared for the potential changes of caregiving means asking yourself some of the following questions:
- Am I financially prepared for the extra costs of caregiving?
- Am I really capable of taking care of Dad or Mom all by myself? Do I need to hire outside help or consider assisted living?
- Do I have the social support and resources I’m going to need?
- How will caregiving affect my physical and mental health?
- If a loved one has dementia and can no longer filter their behavior, will I be able to cope with potentially hurtful words or actions?
- Will I be able to allow myself to accept help and take breaks?
- Will I be able to cut back on work responsibilities during those times when I need to care for my parent?
- Will I be able to make time for myself and my family?
Tips for Family Caregivers
One of the most often-repeated pieces of advice we have heard from caregivers is to not forget to take advantage of the many resources that are available. Even if you don’t feel prepared to take on the tasks of caregiving, you can seek assistance from family, friends and support groups to help you through the difficult times.
Like many other family caregivers, Ann Napoletan thought she could handle everything on her own, without support.”In hindsight, I wish I had gotten involved in a support group and dug deeper to find other resources,” says Ann, who writes for our partner Caregivers.com.
“I would have gotten so much out of connecting with others who had been in my shoes; even if through an online group like the US Against Alzheimer’s Community on Facebook. I know I could have benefited immensely from the experience of others when I was so ‘in the dark’ about every aspect of what I was facing.”
This is especially true when a parent is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. “Our loved one becomes someone they never were, and over time they lose their filter of things that should not be said, actions that should not happen,” says Leeanne Chames, Executive Director of Memory People. “Words hurt more than anything else, and hurtful, hateful words are a part of this journey. When they’re directed at the one that is sacrificing their life to help them, it can be devastating.”
Preparing for this change is only one aspect of coping; often, the best thing we can do is seek out support from those who understand, and remember that we can only do so much ourselves. These are valuable words of advice for every family caregiver.
What questions do you wish you had asked yourself before becoming your parent’s caregiver? We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below.
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