Our parents sacrificed a lot for us as we were growing up: they cared for us, fed us, helped up when we needed it and made sure we were safe and healthy. So, as our parents age it’s very common for many of us to feel like we want to help them in the same way they have helped us over the years.
As much as you want to give your parents the very best care possible (and who can care for your parents better than you?), you also have a life to live and potentially a family to take care of.
There’s only so much you can give, time and care included. Many people are finding themselves providing full or part-time care for their parents as they age or are living with progressive illnesses.
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Assess Exactly What It’s Costing You to Take Care of Your Parents
Before we go any further, let’s be really clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with stepping up to take care of your parents on a full-time basis. It’s admirable and it can really make a big difference in your parent’s life when they may already be scared or overwhelmed.
However, for many people it’s just taking on too much on top of their careers and families that they also need to take care of. If you’re worried that you’re taking on too much and it’s not right for you that’s totally ok.
Here are a few ways you can determine if caring for your parents is just too much for you, and when you might need to step away from it.
It’s Affecting Your Ability to Live Your Life
Has it got to the point where you have stopped really considering your own life anymore – and you’re only focusing on caring for your parent.
If your own hopes, dreams and goals have taken a permanent back seat to caring for your parent then you may be taking on too much all at once, and this might be a sign you need to take a step back for a while.
Having goals and ambitions is really important to living a fulfilling life – for anyone. And while caring for your parent may be something you are really able to do, if you cannot live your own life and push forward with the things you want then you may want to consider bringing in some extra help.
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You’re Constantly Stressed Out
Watching your parent go through an illness that is terminal or life altering can be really difficult. No one wants to watch someone they love in pain or suffering.
However, this isn’t the kind of stress we’re talking about here. Taking care of another person full time can really take its toll on your physical and mental health.
Almost 11% of full-time caregivers have reported feeling physical pain from the amount of stress they experience in caring for a loved one.
If you’re constantly stressed and anxious, and losing control of your own health while caring for your parent, this may be the right time to consider bringing in some help to care for your parents.
It’s Costing You Way Too Much Money by Caring for Your Parents
Some people may think that they can help their parents save money on full-time care by doing it themselves – especially if their parents don’t have the right insurance, or insurance at all.
As a full-time caregiver for your parents you may find you’re often buying groceries, filling up your gas tank (to get to your parent’s home) or picking up their prescriptions.
Additionally, providing full-time care will also require you to give up your job (or at least a full-time job) and that means you will be losing a source of income.
Now, paying for extra errands and picking up what’s needed on top of losing your source of income means you can burn through savings very quickly.
You’re Sacrificing All the Things That Used to Really Matter to You
Have you had to quit your job to provide full-time care for your parent? Maybe even a job you really loved that would have turned into a fantastic career for you?
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Or maybe you haven’t had to quit your job but you find that your work ethic is really suffering because you’re just so burnt out from caring for your parent.
Now this isn’t to say that there won’t be some sacrifices you will be making when it comes to caring for your parents, but if you are really sacrificing absolutely everything that matters to you and you don’t have time to do anything you used to love then it may be time to say no.
You will need to asses all the things that are important to you, and ask yourself if you will be ok with giving this up when your parent no longer needs you. If that is the case, you may want to reconsider what it is you’re giving up.
You Just Are Not Able to Give Them the Care They Need
If your parent has been diagnosed with a rare illness or one that requires specialized care then you may not really be able to provide the care your parent needs.
This is one of the hardest factors for many children to accept as they want to believe that they can provide the care their parent needs, and they know exactly what it is their parent needs.
Accepting that your parent just needs more care, or specialized care, than you can provide them can be really difficult to deal with for anyone.
However, if your parent needs more than you can give (either time wise or experience wise) it’s really ok to accept this, but it won’t be easy.
This may mean that your parent needs to go into long-term care, and leave the home they’ve been in for such a long time. And this can be so difficult on you as well as your parent.
Your parent has lived in this home, this is familiar to them and they don’t want to go into a home where they don’t know anyone or may feel like they’re being abandoned.
Don’t feel like you’re abandoning them, or failing them, though because you aren’t. Accepting and understanding that your parent just needs a little something extra that you can’t give them isn’t a failure at all.
It’s perhaps one of the most loving things you can do for them to make sure they are getting the medical care they really need and that their illness or condition will be cared for by people who know about it and understand how best to care for them.
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You Really Don’t Have to Do This Alone
When your parent gets sick, or even just starts to age, it’s a natural instinct to just step and want to provide all the care for them you can on your own.
Stop a minute, and breathe though. You don’t have to provide all the care for your parent on your own.
You have lots of options, and it’s really important to explore the options available to you and your parent and that would work with their situation.
If you want to still be involved in their care that’s completely valid and definitely something that you can do. You may want to work with an in home care giver to switch off in caring for your parent – this will give you a break and make sure you have professional experience for your parent.
If your parent starts to need full time care, and it’s just not feasible to have in home care around the clock, you may want to start looking at long-term care homes so that they get the care they need.
Your parent may be resistant to moving into a long-term or retirement home, and they may insist that they can take care of themselves – they don’t need to go anywhere. This kind of change can be really difficult for a parent to accept, and when it comes to moving from the home they’ve known and loved for years it becomes even harder for you to talk to them about it.
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Caring for your parents as they age is something we all want to do, as our parents have given so much to us to make sure we succeed in life and so we often feel like we owe it to them to take care of them in their old age.
If you’ve taken on the role of full-time care giver it can really take its toll on you and you may even find that you don’t get to spend real time with your parent anymore since you’re just caring for them.
Taking a step back to breathe and allow some extra help in can actually allow you to enjoy the time you have with your parent in just the relationship of being their child, not their caregiver.
Asking for help and saying no – you can’t do this is not weakness or abandoning your parent. In fact, it’s showing them you love them enough to not let them suffer and make sure they get the very best care possible.