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Caring For Our Aging Parents Can Be Overwhelming

By: Farida Abjani, CEO Aging Gracefully Home Health

We all age, but none of us consider the fact that we will need help with aging. Our parents or elderly family members feel the same way. We all become caregivers because we all care about the older members of our families. However, with little to no knowledge of what caregiving entails, it can become a roller coaster ride. 

The following are some of the reasons caregiving can be overwhelming:

As Caregivers, We Must Do Things We Never Imagined
Caring for aging parents usually begins with small things, like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and helping around the house. For caregivers in this stage, the role of caregiving is straightforward and may not feel overwhelming. As care needs increase for aging parents due to declining health, caregiving becomes more stressful. Sooner or later, one must perform hands-on care for dressing, bathing, continence, and hygiene. Our stress levels, at this juncture, will likely increase. Daughters bear the primary responsibility of caring for aging parents and often experience caregiver burnout. 

Aging Parents Feel a Loss of Independence
At the time of life when retirement should be golden, life sometimes turns out to be filled with grief and loss. Friends pass away, driving stops, and health declines. Isolation results in loneliness and depression. All it takes is an accident or an illness to increase care needs in the blink of an eye. While many aging parents believe they are managing well, this is not usually the case. High percentages of older adults cannot care for themselves in their homes.

The Healthcare System Doesn’t Speak Our Language 
Few explanations occur about the consequences and options of treating or not treating chronic disease. Medical appointments last 15 minutes. Prescriptions are written with no description of why, nor are the implications of the health diagnosis explained. Care and treatment are often denied for aging adults. Care situations worsen when caregivers and aging adults don’t understand information or are fearful of asking questions about caring for aging parents. Frustration rises, and distrust of the system can occur. Healthcare literacy rates are low. This means that many adults lack information about how to remain healthy well into later years, from their 60s on. Due to a lack of education about health and well-being, there is a significant gap between retirement dreams and aging in retirement. Few of us realize that the actions we take as young adults result in our quality of life when we are older: whether we will need a caregiver, and how our health impacts healthcare expenditures in retirement.


The Health of Aging Parents and Spouses Does Not Improve 
Uncertainty exists about what to do about caregiving situations. Where is the manual telling caregivers about caring for aging parents and managing unexpected caregiving situations? Don’t be shocked when the healthcare system tells you that being old means you may not get all the care you want, especially if you are diagnosed with dementia. It takes work to maintain health throughout our lives. Few people realize that everything else becomes more complicated if one has health issues. Adult children caring for aging parents feel like their lives are on hold and everything is up in the air because of caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers give up social activities and friends in order to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities. Life becomes unbalanced, like an uneven teeter-totter, with the weight of caregiving all on one side. It takes work and effort from the caregiver and the aging parents to stay home and remain as independent as possible. Even more challenging are the things caregivers think they know, but don’t know. Many lack understanding of all the components that support remaining independent and healthy. Over time, as the health of loved ones continues to decline, caregivers may feel hopeless or powerless, not knowing what to do.

Medicare Does Not pay for Everything
Families must sit together and discuss the cost of care, and the expenses insurance doesn’t reimburse. Aging happens to everyone, and caregiving is a family matter. Therefore, families must plan how to manage the unexpected costs of caring for aging parents.

There Is Much We Didn’t Know Before Becoming Caregivers
As caregivers to elderly parents, it is essential to have power of attorney. No one tells us or prepares us for this fact. When aging parents cannot make decisions for themselves or have a fear of the unknown, we must act quickly in critical conditions. And for that, we must have power of attorney.

Caregiving Can Be a Thankless Job
As caregivers, we want to do it all. By so doing,  we tend to neglect our other duties and obligations. We lag on one end, and on the other, our caregiving responsibilities continue to increase. It is inevitable that the time will come when we feel unappreciated and when we are physically and emotionally drained. At times like this, it is imperative to ask for help.

Caregiving Can Be Harmful to Our Well-being
As caregivers, we often get to a point where we feel burned out and guilty, believe we are not good enough, have doubts about whether or not we have what it takes to succeed in the caregiving role, criticize ourselves and others, and become emotionally distressed when everything isn’t just right. We also may become upset when others, perhaps siblings, the person being cared for, or the doctor, don’t follow through, participate, or follow our plan. If we are experiencing any of these issues, caregiving may be harming our well-being. That means it’s time to consider doing what we can to improve the situation as much as possible by identifying what we don’t know while being realistic.

Concern that our loved one isn’t getting the appropriate care can result in emotional stress, worry, sleepless nights, and more reasons caregiving may harm our well-being. These circumstances can result in caregivers or patients getting frustrated and giving up due to the time it takes to get care approvals. Instead of giving up, we must learn to be compassionate with ourselves and extend compassion to others facing struggles we might not see. 

As a result of our desire to be helpful, family caregivers may feel stuck in situations where they know they need to act on the care of spouses and elderly parents. Still, we need help identifying the best options. Disagreements may exist between parents and siblings about the right thing to do. Caregivers may be angry that siblings aren’t pulling their weight and helping care for elderly parents. Arguments may result because families flounder to find solutions to identify complex information needed to make decisions. Imagine trying to solve a math problem with only half of the equation. Or, these days, trying to get somewhere without access to GPS. The simple fact is that we love our elders, but sometimes it takes more to succeed in caregiving situations. Finding the proper caregiving support is the best option.

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