Taking care of an elderly parent or loved one at home is a compassionate, selfless act. But it gets tricky when you want to talk about your own needs—some people feel they’re being selfish or negative by acknowledging that they have wants and needs outside of being a caretaker. This isn’t the case at all. It’s normal and healthy to want to take steps to ensure you’re not all-consumed by caretaking. In fact, not doing so leads to exhaustion and burnout. Elder care can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean you have to struggle.
If you’re taking care of an elderly parent or loved one, remember the following advice:
Schedule “me time.” It’s not selfish to need or take some “me time.” In fact, it’s necessary for your mental health. Schedule regular time for yourself so you can indulge in self-care—whether that takes the form of an online yoga class, a long walk or (during COVID-19) a virtual coffee meeting with friends. Taking time for yourself that doesn’t include running errands or doing chores will help you maintain your sense of self outside your role as a caretaker.
Spend quality time outside of caretaking duties. It’s only natural that you might fall into a caretaker/patient relationship with your loved one, but that doesn’t mean you should lose track of your personal connection with each other. Spend time together that doesn’t involve caretaking, like gardening or playing a favorite card game or watching a movie together. Maybe you have a shared hobby that you can explore together. Maintaining a relationship outside of the patient/provider dynamic will help you both feel supported and loved.
Perform self-wellness checks. Take time every week to ask yourself:
- “Have I been getting enough sleep?”
- “Am I hydrated?”
- “Have I been eating nutritious meals?”
- “Am I feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed?”
It’s easy to forget about your own physical and mental wellbeing when you’re taking care of another person, so it’s important to always check in with yourself and make sure your own basic needs are being met.
Ask for help. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for some help. It takes a strong individual to admit that they are just one person and can’t always do everything all the time. There are organizations available to help with all facets of elder care. In Michigan, services like Carol Health provide in-home, on-demand medical care. Schedule visits for as often as you need them and a registered nurse will come to your home to provide assistance with medications, vital checks, lab draws and general respite care. These kinds of services are an invaluable tool when it comes to taking on the fulltime care of a loved one.
Be sure to check with your loved one’s health insurance provider about additional in-home assistance that might be available. For example, Priority Health Medicare Advantage members have the extra benefit of an annual in-home health assessment intended to answer questions and update the member’s regular doctor. This comprehensive checkup is available at no additional cost in the comfort of the member’s own home, the home of a friend or family member, or another convenient location. *Note that these visits should be scheduled at a later time due some services paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.*
Check out the resources for seniors during COVID-19 for more help that may be available to you and your elderly loved one. Remember to also make sure your home is updated if your loved one is living with you in your home. And keeping important self-care in mind, you can always ask for help if you need to make any necessary modifications to maximize care and safety.