Care giving isn't easy! Last year I found myself agreeing to become a Caregiver for my elderly Grand Mother. My Grand Father had fallen and landed himself in the hospital. We weren't sure if he would live. We had known for several years both he and my Grand Mother needed care but they insisted on taking care of one another
About a week or so later, my Grand Mother needed to go to the hospital where she passed away. In the meantime, my Grand Father recovered and came home. I now take care of him rather than her. He's 92 and a fall risk. He suffers from minor dementia and a few other health issues but he's plugging right along.
Looking back, it's been a long process. It started with going to the hospital with them to make sure they were properly cared for and that my Grand Parents understood what was happening. We added monitoring their medications, and several other things they said they were able to take care of but couldn't. It was sad and difficult to see them decline and the conditions in which they lived. I stepped in where and when I could while respecting their boundaries. It wasn't easy by any means. They would get mad and stop allowing family members and myself to help. Then they would use good old manipulation techniques to get their way but you love them through it.
Many people in this situation, including myself, are under a lot of pressure and stress. So how do we take care of our elderly parents and ourselves?
1. Set healthy boundaries. It's trial and error in the beginning as you all learn to live together. You find out what your limits are pretty fast. You limits are yours! Do not allow people to pressure you into doing more than you feel you can or to make you feel less than for having limits. If you're not sure what boundaries are and how to set them, read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I think everyone should read this book at least once. Once you know what your boundaries are, write them down in a journal so you can refer to them when needed. Trust me, you'll need the list.
2. Stick to your boundaries! Healthy boundaries are a good thing for everyone involved but they may not be liked by all who are involved. That's alright. Manipulation, guilt, temper tantrums, anger and other sneaky little devils will come in and try to tear down your boundaries or make you think you no longer need them. Yes, you do!
3. Take time for yourself daily. You can't give what you don't have. I'm reminded of when the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on first BEFORE you help others, even your beloved children. The same applies here. If you don't take of yourself first, you have nothing to give someone else. This isn't about being selfish, so don't let anyone tell you it is. This is about being the best you can be.
4. Eat healthy foods, including lots of green vegetables and fresh vegetable juices. You are what you eat! You eat unhealthy foods, you become unhealthy. Proper nourishment is essential in managing stress and overall health.
5. Get enough sleep. If your loved one gets you up during the night, make time for a nap or consider hiring someone to relieve you. Sleep, like proper nutrition, affects many areas of your health and well being.
6. Exercise. Exercise is a must for managing stress. At minimum, take a 15 minute walk twice a day. Notice the flowers, count the birds, and think of what's going right. I find hiking, long walks and a steady exercise routine help me immensely.
7. Consider hiring a coach for a few sessions to help you find and maintain balance. Caring for an elderly loved one can become all consuming if you let it. A coach will help you find your limits, what boundaries you need to set and how to go about it, and much more.
8. Pray. Ask God to help you. I ask God to set angels all around my Grand Father to protect him from falling and whatever else he or I need help with. I make sure to have an attitude of gratitude as well. My Grand Father is very negative and I have to work hard at not letting his negativity draw me in. Having an attitude of gratitude helps me stay positive.
If you are caring for a family member, you are a blessing! When you feel unappreciated, remember, God sees you! I hope this post helps you along your journey. Take good care of yourself.
You're worth it!