Nothing prepares you for your mom spending all her money on television infomercials and then asking you to pay her bills because she can no longer reason, or for feeling “widowed” because your husband is no longer himself, yet still desires intimacy.

No one talks about this stuff. It’s uncomfortable, emotional and hard to make sense of no matter who you are. People need a support system.

Here are five easy and helpful keys to surviving caregiving:

  1. Don’t put your head in the sand.

Like an ostrich, if you put your head in the sand, you present a bigger target, Don’t ignore signs, or the concerns of friends, neighbors, and family members who suggest that your senior may have a problem. If you do, you might miss an opportunity to avoid an emergency, or help your senior before it’s too late. Ask your elder’s doctor to refer you for a geriatrics assessment, and find out if you need help.

  1. Know when to take the “S” off your chest, or step away from the Kryptonite.

It’s important to remember that you are not “Super-caregiver” (nor do you need to be)! Many families try to do with one or two people what three shifts of trained nurses do in a hospital or long-term care facility. You do need help.

  1. Know that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” won’t work!

It takes a village to support a senior, just as it does to raise a child. Tell people you need help.

  1. Learn to take your hands off the steering wheel.

When others offer to help, don’t “major in the minor.” Unless the doctor says a specific medicine, food or schedule is critical, or you know a specific strategy works best, don’t hover or criticize. In other words, you shouldn’t care if your sister serves tuna salad instead of chicken salad, or puts Dad in the red shirt instead of the blue one.

If people don’t help you, ask yourself what you said to them the last time they tried. You might discover that you discourage people, so let people help.

  1. Put your mask on first.

Follow the flight attendants’ lead. “You cannot give care, supervise care, or advocate for anyone when you are afraid and uninformed, physically ill, financially strapped, emotionally exhausted, or spiritually bankrupt.”

Remember, you can’t take care of them if you don’t take care of you.

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