When you have an elderly parent, it’s not always easy to be there for them. Not only do you have your own life, but often they live far away or in another state. So what can you do? Here are four tips to help you care for your elderly parent when you can’t be there.
1. Take care of yourself
The first thing you need to do is take care of yourself. This means making sure that you are eating well and getting enough sleep. Make sure you have time to relax, enjoy yourself, and spend time with friends and family.
If your parent’s needs are too much for you to handle on your own, consider getting some professional help. A social worker or psychologist can provide valuable assistance in navigating the difficult waters of caring for an aging parent or relative who may be suffering from dementia or another health problem such as Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Be flexible
Be open to change, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It may feel like a big step to ask a friend or family member to spend time with your parent, but it can make all the difference in their well-being. Be willing to bend your own plans if it means giving them the care they deserve. Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks, either.
Sometimes we get so used to doing everything ourselves that we forget about our own needs – remember that there is no shame in asking for help from others or taking time off from caring duties if it means regaining some balance in your life
3. Be realistic
Your parent may want you to help them with work, schoolwork, and getting around the house. You can’t do it all. If you need help with a project, be the person who gets them started on their research and then reach out to others in your extended family or community. This will be a win-win situation because you are helping your parent get things done.
If there is some area where it’s impossible for us to provide any meaningful assistance, we have found that being honest about this can actually help our parents feel less overwhelmed by their day-to-day lives. For example, one of my parents has severe arthritis in both hands and cannot write legibly anymore—which makes filling out forms difficult at best—and another has Parkinson’s disease, making handwriting nearly impossible for her.
4. Make a plan
If you can’t be there, have a plan. Make sure that your parents know who will be helping them when you aren’t around, and get in contact with them in advance to ensure they’ll be able to do it. If you’re going to be away for an extended period—say, because of work or school—make sure the person caring for your parents has the resources they need to help them maintain their independence while providing guidance and support.
If you cannot take care of your aging family member during this challenging time, consider hiring professional caretakers and a healthcare delivery service for assistance with bathing or housekeeping tasks so as not to overextend yourself. In addition, this will free up more time for visits when possible, allowing everyone involved an opportunity for some much-needed relaxation and respite from the stressors at hand.
These four tips are helpful and can make the process of supporting your elderly parent a bit easier for you.