Becoming caregivers – a blessing or burden?

 As caregivers for our aging parents or other elderly family members, we need to be ready. And that doesn’t mean we have to give up life as we’ve known and enjoyed it up to that point.  

But it does mean some shifts and adjustments in our lifestyles.

Boomer siblings with ailing parent

We never know when the time will come that our parents need that extra care or attention, when they can no longer take care of themselves or live on their own.

Sometimes, we see it coming and can make appropriate plans to address the need well in advance, like choosing a care facility or making other arrangements.

Other times, it’s sudden, taking us completely by surprise. We find ourselves overwhelmed and at a loss for which direction to turn. We are regrettably unequipped to deal with the situation.

Some of us have already gone through the experience and come out on the other side. Others are still in the middle of caring for our parents.

A MetLife study found that nearly 10 million Baby Boomers are taking care of their elderly parents and the percentage of Boomers taking on this role has more than tripled over the past 15 years. 

When caught unprepared for the new role, more than a third of caregivers end up having to leave their jobs to adequately provide the care needed.

And that's at a huge cost, nearly $3 trillion in lost wages, pensions and Social Security benefits.

These Boomers taking care of their parents are also likely to become more run down and suffer poorer health than Boomers who don’t take on that role.

But that doesn’t have to happen.

Getting prepared

Before your parents need help, get your ducks in a row. Ask questions and include siblings when possible:

  • Do they have long-term health care plans 
  • If so, what does the plan cover 
  • What’s the financial status – mortgages, stocks and bonds, savings, pensions 
  • Who is or who should be designated power of attorney, legal and medical 
  • Are there wills and living wills
  • Have they determined end of life wishes 
  • How important is it to them to stay in their home 
  • Can their home be easily modified to provide assistance and/or support as needed 
  • What kind of living arrangements appeal to them  
  • What medications are they on 
  • Who are their doctors

Then do some research on what living arrangements are available in their or your communities and their costs. Also determine what other resources are available.

There are tons of books available to assist caregivers in this journey by people who have gone through similar experiences.

One is "Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer's Journey" by Jolene Brackey. The book has been revised and expanded many times because of the huge difference it's made.

For more caregiver resources, this website lists a number of helpful ones that can be found online.

(Note: As an Amazon associate, we earn commissions from qualifying purchases.)

Active caregivers already

Keep in mind that there may be resources out there that can provide services that you're not even aware of yet. Do the research.

And above everything else, remember that run-down, depressed, overwhelmed caregivers lose their ability to do the job properly. People who take care of others need care, too.

  • Communicate your concerns, frustrations, ideas and suggestions to the person you’re assisting. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help from siblings, friends or other family members. Share the load. 
  • Take time for yourself, stay in touch with your friends and share what you’re experiencing. 
  • A burned-out caregiver is basically a useless caregiver. 
  • Try not to enable; let the person you’re caring for do what he can on his own. 
  • Stay healthy – eat right, exercise, get sufficient sleep and be patient (with yourself and your parent).

Blessing in disguise

Enjoy the opportunity to repay your parents for the time they spent taking care of you as a child.

Take this special time to get to know them better. Find out what they were like growing up. What their hopes and dreams were then and now. Record the family history if it hasn't already been done or fill in any gaps that existed before now.

Even if you think you know it all, ask them again - we all love to know that others care about what's important to us. And we often hear something in the retelling that we missed the first few times we heard it.

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