As your parent(s) starts to age, you may find yourself in an unfamiliar situation where you take on the role of a caregiver. Understanding the full weight of your duties can help you set expectations and prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
Being a caregiver for a parent can be both rewarding and challenging. On one hand, it can be a chance to show your appreciation for all they have done for you over the years. However, caregiving can also be a demanding role, requiring both physical and emotional strength.
Read on below to learn more about this role and what you can do to create a healthy and safe environment for your parent and yourself.
- Challenges of Caregiving for a Parent
- Issues Parent Caregivers Face
- Can You Pay Yourself To Take Care of an Elderly Parent?
- How to Share Caregiving Duties
- Resources for Caregivers of Older Parents
- I Can No Longer Care for My Parent
Challenges of Caregiving for a Parent
One of the biggest challenges is managing the caregiving duties while also maintaining a full-time job and other commitments. This can lead to feelings of guilt, exhaustion, and frustration. Another challenge is dealing with the physical and emotional changes that come with age-related illnesses. This can be difficult to watch, but it is important to remember that your parent is still the same person, just with different needs.
Despite the challenges, caregiving can be a deeply enriching experience. It is an opportunity to create new memories and deepen the bond you share with your parent.
As the child-parent roles reverse, it can be difficult to communicate with a parent you are caring for. It is not uncommon for elderly parents to be resistant to the help you are trying to give. They may still hold on to the sense of power that they have left. You may also find it challenging to give direction and guidance as you may not be used to taking the lead in your relationship.
Caregiving is physically demanding. If your elderly parent needs help with their daily activities, you will be responsible for fulfilling various tasks. Aside from assisting with their personal care and grooming, you may also be tasked to do household chores and errands. The daily duties can cause physical strain and fatigue.
The role of a caregiver can be emotionally draining as well. Juggling all the responsibilities can be tough on your mental health. On top of that, emotional stress can also happen as you come to terms with the fact that your parent’s health is declining.
Caring for an elderly loved one can also be costly. Medications, hospital bills, and other healthcare needs will add up. If you don’t have financial assistance, it can be hard to keep up, especially if you have taken time off work to care for your loved one.
Issues Parent Caregivers Face
Aside from the major challenges that come with caregiving for a parent, there can also be other potential issues that you could encounter. These issues can usually be resolved by crafting an effective care plan and developing a healthy personal routine to avoid caregiver burnout.
- Lack of sleep because of a busy schedule.
- Health issues that stem from neglecting your own health needs.
- Caregiver burnout and fatigue.
- Privacy issues from sharing a space with your parent.
- Time management problems can happen if there are too many tasks.
- Social challenges can arise due to isolation.
Caring for a Parent and How It Can Affect Your Marriage
This can be a difficult and stressful time, as caregiving duties can take away from time that would normally be spent with a spouse or partner. In addition, caring for an aging parent can be emotionally demanding, and it can be difficult to maintain a healthy relationship when one partner is constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to take care of yourself and communicate openly with your spouse or partner. Taking breaks when possible, scheduling regular date nights, and sharing your feelings honestly can help prevent your caregiving obligations from negatively affecting your marriage.
How To Decide if You Should Take Care of Your Elderly Parent
Before taking on this role, it is important to understand what you are getting into. Doing some self-reflection can greatly help in figuring out your next steps.
Before making the decision to become a loved one’s caregiver, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I willing to sacrifice my time and needs to be a caregiver for my parent?
- Am I financially stable enough to take on this role?
- Do I have the physical and emotional strength to become a caregiver?
- Do I want to take them into my home or should I move into theirs?
- Is my relationship with my parent healthy enough to spend 24/7 together?
- Would it be better if I take on the role of caregiver or hire a professional?
- How long can I commit to providing care and support?
- How much help do I need from my siblings and other family members?
- What else can I learn to help me prepare for this role?
Can You Pay Yourself To Take Care of an Elderly Parent?
There are a couple of ways that you can get paid as a caregiver for your parent. Here are just some examples of how you can get financial assistance:
- Personal agreement or contract with your parent that outlines your caregiving service for payment.
- In some states, Medicaid will pay family caregivers who meet certain qualifications.
- Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers through the Veterans Administration will pay family caregivers and veterans who meet the VA guidelines.
Does Caring for a Parent Qualify for FMLA?
Yes, being a caregiver for a parent is covered in the Family Medical Leave Act. If you are an eligible employee, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. With FMLA, your employer is required to continue providing your health insurance benefits even while you are on leave.
If you are applying for a job after a long leave because of your caregiving duties, you should include your time away from work on your resume. Even if it might not be relevant to the position you are applying for, this will help explain the gap in your resume.
How to Share Caregiving Duties
Caregiving is a demanding job, and it often falls on the shoulders of one person. If you are the primary caretaker for your parents, you may feel like you don’t have any time for yourself. However, it is important to remember that you are not alone.
Your siblings can also be a great source of support when it comes to caregiving duties. Here are some tips for sharing caregiving duties with your siblings:
- Communicate openly with your siblings about your caregiving responsibilities. Discuss what tasks each of you is willing and able to take on. For example, if a sibling doesn’t live nearby, they can be responsible for tasks that don’t require an in-person presence.
- Make a caregiving schedule that takes everyone’s availability into account.
- Be willing to compromise and adjust the schedule as needed.
- Seek out support from other family members and friends when needed.
- Take breaks when you can, and care for yourself both physically and emotionally.
Sharing caregiving duties with your siblings can be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them. By working together, you can provide the best possible care for your parents while also taking care of yourselves.
What if Your Sibling(s) Won’t Help With Caregiving Duties?
You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed while caring for aging parents. And if your siblings won’t help with caregiving duties, it can make the situation even more difficult. Many sibling relationships are already complex, and caregiving can sometimes intensify existing tensions.
If your siblings refuse to help, it’s important to have a frank discussion about the situation. Try to understand their reasons for not wanting to get involved. It may be that they feel they’re not up to the task or they’re worried about making things worse. Whatever their reasons, try to come to an agreement about how caregiving duties can be shared.
Resources for Caregivers of Older Parents
In addition to the emotional toll, caregiving can also take a physical and financial toll. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help caregivers manage the challenges of caregiving.
One common challenge is finding time to care for an aging parent while also managing work and other family responsibilities. Resources such as respite care and adult day care can provide much-needed relief by giving caregivers a chance to take a break.
Other challenges caretakers face can include managing chronic conditions, handling finances, and providing end-of-life care. A variety of organizations offer support groups, educational materials, and other resources to help caregivers navigate these challenges.
Ultimately, being a caregiver is a demanding role, but it can be made easier with the right support. Some of the resources you can visit for help in caregiving for older parents are:
- National Institute on Aging
- National Library of Medicine
- Eldercare Locator
- Local Area Agency on Aging
I Can No Longer Care for My Parent
Caregiving can be a difficult and emotionally fraught experience, especially if your own spouse or children are also relying on you for care. If you are no longer able to care for an aging parent yourself, there are many options available. Hiring in-home care, selecting a senior care facility, or seeking out respite care are all options to consider when your current situation is no longer working.
Educate yourself about these care options in advance of needing to find other caregiving solutions:
- A common senior housing option is assisted living. In assisted living facilities, residents receive help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Assisted living offers medication management and support from staff 24 hours a day. Assisted living facilities vary in size and features, but are meant to provide a safe and supportive environment for the people who live there.
- Another senior housing option is adult care homes. Adult care homes are single-family residential homes that provide care for 5-10 residents. Like assisted living facilities, they offer assistance with activities of daily living and 24-hour support from staff. Adult care homes are typically less expensive than assisted living facilities, but they may not have all of the same amenities.
- Respite care is an option for families who need a break from providing care. Respite care can be provided in the home of the person receiving care. It can be short-term or long-term, and it can be used on an as-needed basis. Respite care allows caregivers to take a break while knowing that their loved one is being cared for by qualified professionals.
No one wants to think about the possibility of not being able to care for their parent, but it is important to be prepared. Assisted living, adult care homes, and respite care are all viable options for those who find themselves in this situation. By doing your research ahead of time, you can make sure that you are making the best decision for yourself and your family.
Being a caregiver for an aging parent can present both rewards and challenges. By being prepared for the potential demands of the role, you can set yourself up for success. Having a support system in place, whether it be friends, family, or professional help, is crucial.
There are many resources available to support you through this journey. Here are just a few tips to help you navigate these waters:
- Care for yourself by taking breaks, scheduling time for outings and exercise, and getting plenty of rest
- If caregiving is affecting your marriage, communicate openly with your partner, ask for help from friends and family, and schedule regular date nights.
- If caring for a parent is financially impacting you, research paid family caregiver programs through Medicaid and the VA.
- If you have siblings, work with them to share caregiving duties. Making phone calls, managing banking, arranging doctor appointments, and following up on health issues can all be assigned to other family members who are able to help.
Utilizing community resources, such as Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, or meals on wheels programs can also take some of the pressure off caregivers. Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Caregiving can be a rewarding experience but it’s important not to lose sight of your own needs in the process.
Are there any tips we missed about caring for a parent? Leave your comments and tips below!
Caregiving for a Parent Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, there are several ways you can get compensation as a family caregiver. Medicaid, VA, and some national programs offer financial assistance to those who are eligible.
When you are overwhelmed, step back and take a break from the responsibilities. It is crucial to ensure that your own needs are also met to prevent burnout. Consider hiring an in-home caregiver or using respite care that can help you out when necessary.
Start with creating a care plan that outlines the care needs and who will be involved. Designate roles and tasks to other family members to divide caregiving duties. Investing in home safety tools and equipment for older adults is also necessary to ensure a comfortable living environment for your parent.
No, social security doesn’t typically pay caregivers or any other costs associated with caregiving. If a loved one can no longer manage their finances, you may become a representative payee to manage the payments on behalf of the beneficiary.
Legal responsibility for elderly parents varies by state. Currently, there are 28 states with Filial Responsibility Laws, which require adult children to be financially responsible for their aging parents.
Amie Clark, BSW
Aging Advocate and Senior Care Expert
Amie has worked with older adults and their families for the past twenty-plus years of her career. Her senior care knowledge is based on her experience as a social worker, family caregiver, and senior care consultant. Learn more about Amie here.