Caregiving for an elderly parent, spouse, or other loved one can be a delicate balance. On one hand, you want to see them thrive and continue to meet and overcome challenges as they have successfully done all their life. On the other hand, you know that they deserve a well-earned rest, and you don’t want to push them beyond their limits. Your loved one likely has many thoughts about their care as well, and likely wants to remain as independent as possible. They may, however, be hesitant to handle the hard stuff, or overeager to do it all. Change is hard, for everyone, especially when it comes to aging.
So, how can you ensure that your loved one’s needs are being met in the best way? Most of all, how can you ensure that your loved one’s quality of life continues? It’s important to strike a balance between doing practically everything for your loved one even when they can do at least some tasks on their own, and empowering them to do the things they can do. Here’s how to find a compromise that works for you and the older adult in your life.
Helping vs. Enabling
As a family caregiver, it’s best to understand the difference between helping and enabling your loved one, so you can establish a caring environment that’s beneficial to you both. Your loved one has entrusted you with helping them maintain their independence, after all.
It can be tricky when it comes to caring for someone you love. For instance, when an elderly parent suddenly becomes the one being taken care of, the role reversal can bring up other feelings and complicate the situation. Also, you may find yourself overmanaging their care because you want what is best for them or don’t want them to worry about things after many years of handling it all.
However, being a caregiver doesn’t and shouldn’t mean doing it all. That can leave you tired and stressed, and it can lead to caregiver burnout, which occurs when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.
It also isn’t what is best for your loved one. There is likely a lot that they are still capable of or interested in. Let them help! Depression is common in aging adults and can arise from a loss of independence. Continuing to mentally and physically engage in activities and exercise as we age is good for our independence and overall health.
The Importance of Empowering Your Loved One
Not only is it possible to help your loved one more than you enable them, but it is also imperative that you continue to empower them as they age. It is so good for our minds and bodies to feel useful and engaged as we age.
For example, only one in four adults between the ages of 65 and 74 regularly exercise. There are many misperceptions, including that exercising after a certain age isn’t worth it. But, it is! Exercise can boost memory, improve balance, and help reduce chronic health conditions. The type of exercise your loved one does may change as they age, but their choice to be active, in whatever capacity that may be, doesn’t have to.
Empower your loved one to stay physically active. Help them make a plan with their doctor for how much and how often they should exercise, and allow them to complete household tasks and errands on their own as they are able as well. This can help them remain busy and proud of their accomplishments.
Mental exercise is, of course, important as well. Encourage your loved one to do puzzles, listen to or dance to music, teach you things, or relay their favorite lessons or memories to you. You can also help your loved one find a new hobby or interest. This is a great way to exercise their brain! Research shows that volunteering and engaging in hobbies improves memory and self-esteem for older adults.
Whether it is your elderly parent, spouse, or other loved one, they need to be a partner and active participant in their care. If there are tasks you know they are capable of, or that they’ve been asking to help with, give them a chance to pitch in. It will be good for you both.
Respite Care to the Rescue!
Homecare Angels respite care can be a wonderful resource for family caregivers in their quest to avoid burnout, which can often result when caring for a loved one. Respite care helps family caregivers recharge. The service allows you to catch up with a friend, grab a coffee, spend the afternoon with your children, or even take a well-needed and well-earned nap. Whether you need a few hours a day or a few days a week, your loved one will be in good hands with a Homecare Angel’s professional caregiver, who will follow your loved one’s care plan to the letter while you unwind, allowing you to return to your loved one refreshed to resume your caregiving role.