At some point in your life, you will likely be tasked to care for a loved one either due to illness, injury, or age-related complications. One of the most common and long-term types of caregiving is related to caring for an elderly loved one, be it a family member, spouse, or friend. As people age, they face an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or a decline in general health. Most of the time, depending on the family’s situation, the responsibility of caring for a loved one falls on a spouse, or close relative such as an adult child or sibling.


When taking over the care, health and safety of another, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, anxious, or even resentful, especially in cases where you may have not had a choice in the matter. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is an estimated 1 in 3 adults in the United States who are informal caregivers. Even still, many are reluctant to give themselves that title and credit to themselves that they are caregivers.

 

As a caregiver of anyone, it’s vital that you care for yourself as well. As the old phrase goes, “if a plane is crashing, you need to use your mask for a breath first before you can help anyone else,” and the saying is true also in terms of caring for a loved one. Many caregivers are uncomfortable asking for help for themselves, generally because they feel as though they are being selfish for asking or they may feel as though they simply don’t have time to pay any attention to their needs while caring for their loved one. Both these situations are a leading cause of caregiver burnout, and when that happens, no one benefits.

 

Although it can be a challenge balancing both your needs and your loved one’s needs, it’s not impossible to care for yourself, but it may take more planning or forethought as to how you can begin. Here are some tips of how to accomplish self-care whilst being a caregiver.

No one wants to think about their parents one day no longer being there for a phone call or a Sunday lunch. When you start seeing mom or dad slowing down and getting up there in years, you may want to begin having deep and meaningful conversations with them centered on learning more about their life stories.


It’s unlikely you know everything about your parents, so opening up to them and having them open up to you and tell you their stories can be enlightening and interesting. You may get pieces of your own history, or they may remember something funny you did when you were a child that you have no recollection of. They likely know things about your grandparents or your great grandparents, and possibly even further back that you never heard about!


Everyone should try to learn their story through their parent’s eyes. It’s likely you’ll find out things that are interesting, heartbreaking, romantic, bittersweet, and then some. Stories passed from generation to generation are the glue that keep people and their families together, and they help you learn who you are and where you came from. Below are some ideas on how to get your parent’s stories, as well as a few sample questions to ask.

More Americans are choosing to age in place instead of moving to a retirement center. Aging in place — which is continuing to live at home as you get older — has many benefits to the health and well being of seniors. They’re able to enjoy the support of family and friends in their surrounding communities and live in the familiarity of their own homes. According to the AARP, about seven out of 10 adults say they hope to continue to live in their present communities as long as they can.

 

But aging in place does present some challenges. Older adults also say that they’re concerned about safety issues and taking care of daily tasks as they continue to live at home while they grow older. Living at home can mean that they don’t have access to the same safety measures or physical and emotional care that they’d get in a retirement or nursing care facility. Fortunately, there are steps you can take steps to help your senior remain in the familiar surroundings of their home and while staying safe and being provided with emotional and physical support.

Elderly couple walking down the street.

Linda knew something was wrong the day she came home from a church meeting and found that her 82-year-old husband, Bill, had placed a plastic food container on a stove burner. She’d told him to heat up leftover chicken and dumplings for his lunch, but instead of putting them in a pot, Bill had set the container directly on the burner. “Luckily, he’d turned the stove on its lowest setting, and I got home minutes after he’d done it, so our kitchen just smelled like burned plastic for a couple of hours,” says Linda. “But it could have been worse. The incident made me worry that Bill was losing his memory.”

 

gingerbread cookies for the holidays

This holiday season could be more difficult and challenging than usual for our seniors. COVID-19 restrictions, while keeping everyone safer, also mean that we all have to spend more time apart, and this is especially true for the older population. But with a bit of planning and adjusting, there are ways you can help your senior loved one enjoy the holiday season!