Read about the common challenges of caring for elderly parents and how you can cope with those challenges in a way that benefits your parents and your family.
Being responsible for our parents as they age is something most of us understand may happen to some degree. Visiting them more often, helping them with a few errands and generally looking out for their wellbeing are duties we know will be part of our lives. Most of us, however, do not usually imagine being a carer for our parents. Statistics show that there are 6.5 million family caregivers in the UK and a huge 40% of those people care for a parent or parent-in-law.
There are lots of reasons that there are so many people caring for their ageing parents. The population is ageing so, we are all living longer and so require some level of care for a longer period of time. There aren’t enough care homes to cope with demand. Previously, care homes were the default option when you age and need care, but now it has become apparent that it isn’t the only option, and a study by The Live In Care Hub (https://www.liveincarehub.co.uk/) showed nearly 100% of people would prefer to avoid residential care if they can.
Most of the time, family caregivers ‘fall’ into their caring position. Your parent may suffer an injury or medical issue, they may help for a week, which turns into a month and then quickly it is more convenient to move in with them or move them in to you. It is never usually a pre-planned situation, which is why the effects of being a family caregiver often come as a shock.
Few people are prepared for the huge physical and emotional challenges of caring for a parent.
The Challenges Of Caring For A Parent
The challenges of caring for an elderly parent are plentiful. Primarily, the emotional toll is high. The role reversal between parent and child is hard to come to terms with. On top of that, there is a sense of loss felt by both parties. The parent may feel they have lost their independence and sense of pride. The child may feel they have lost the parent they once depended on. Long-term more complex emotions occur, and caregivers can feel stressed, bitter, angry, low in self-worth and sometimes depressed by their situation.
Medically, caregiving can be challenging for the children of elderly parents because they have no medical training. Dementia particularly can be very hard even when your parent doesn’t live with you, let alone when you are responsible for their care.
The physical challenges of caregiving are also extremely difficult, particularly when lifting needs to be done. Caregivers are also more likely to have health issues because of ignoring their own needs and instead focusing all their attention on their parent.
Combined, the challenges of caring for a parent are extremely difficult to cope with at times and if attention isn’t paid to the health and wellbeing of the person caregiving, caregiver burnout may occur.
Is It Time To Seek Support?
There are lots of things you can do to balance the effects of caring for an elderly parent such as eating healthily, exercising, speaking to a friend or therapist regularly and generally allowing yourself to be the focus sometimes. Even if you are able to care for yourself well, you may still need a little extra help in this difficult role. Part time, a live in care agency can provide you with respite carers who will provide respite care as a one off, regular service weekly or fortnightly, or more often if you prefer. If you need more help, more often, it could be worth approaching a live in care agency about getting a carer who can come to your home.
A live in carer can help provide dedicated 1-to-1 care to your loved one. Sometimes, the constant companionship provided by the carer alone can make a marked difference to your parents life, and to yours. The freedom you will gain to run errands, work, focus on other members of the family and relieve yourself of the most difficult parts of caregiving is priceless.
If you think you might need some extra help caring for your loved one from a qualified professional, speak to your GP about getting a care assessment, the first step in getting a care plan set up. You can get a rough idea of the costs of live-in care on the UK Care Guide, and more information about live in care on The Live-in Care Hub.