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Senior Housing Net
    JUNE 2, 2000
    Getting Comfortable As A Caregiver In Your New Role
    By: Gail R Mitchell
    For those of you who are new, you may want to 
    check the "New to Caregiving" article in our 
    archives to familiarize yourself with what 
    caregiving is all about.
    Stepping into the role as a caregiver presents 
    many challenges depending on who it is you are 
    caring for. If you are caring for a child there are 
    very specific issues you need to become aware 
    of. If you are caring for a spouse, there are 
    probably many new daily obligations that you will 
    be taking on since your spouse may no longer be 
    able to fulfill his/her responsibilities in the relation-
    ship. This may include daily tasks around the 
    house, being the main income provider and more. 
    So much will shift and there is a lot of adaptation 
    that you must still do to keep the relationship loving 
    and safe to continue growing and communicating 
    in. In the case of many of you, role reversals will 
    take place as you begin taking on responsibility 
    in caring for your parent or an elderly loved one.
    For now we will focus on caring for your parent or 
    elderly family member who is still coherent and 
    functioning on their own.
    Taking on the responsibility as an adult child in 
    caring for your parent is both extremely 
    challenging and confusing. The most important 
    issue your must remember is to make choices 
    to keep them as independent as possible. 
    It is up to you to learn how to communicate 
    effectively with them, as most parents of our 
    generation tend to be very in adept at expressing 
    their feelings, wants and needs. As boomers, I 
    am sure all of you can remember back to the 
    sixties when all havoc broke out Everything was 
    about the "generational gap." Generally speaking, 
    when it comes to our parent's expressing 
    themselves, the unfortunate truth is that the "gap" 
    still exists, so you must acquire tools and skills 
    to empower yourselves as well as empowering 
    your loved one. And the truth is that many of 
    you still see yourself as the child just as your 
    parents do, so the role reversal must be taken on 
    gently, especially if your parents are coherent and 
    capable of making wise decisions. If they are not 
    coherent, it is a whole different undertaking. Slowly 
    we will be addressing all the different situations 
    that may come up.
    As you already know, life spans are increasing 
    more and more as the result of the advances in 
    medicine. Also many parents have done things 
    to make their elderly years a more positive 
    experience for themselves through exercising, 
    eating better and keeping their mind active as 
    well. However, medicine has also prolonged 
    life and many of our parents are no longer 
    capable of performing daily functions that keep 
    their lives balanced such as: driving, walking, 
    preparing their own meals, dressing, paying 
    bills and more. They may have difficulty in being 
    alone if their spouse has passed away. There 
    are many areas that you must assess in order 
    to determine what they need. Taking on this 
    role of overseeing and caring for them 
    necessitates you learning as much as 
    you possibly can so that the decisions, which 
    will be made, are made are for the highest good 
    of all concerned. 
    You may be thinking right now: "How do I know 
    what to do and when? " "Am I making the right 
    decisions?" "Am I capable of taking on this role?" 
    "How do I find the balance of caring for my parent 
    when I work full time and have my own family to 
    take care of?" And possibly, you may be saying 
    to yourself, " My own health is failing, how can I 
    do both?" Or "I live a long distance from my parent, 
    how am I going to be able to make sure they are 
    All these questions are normal and valid to an 
    adult child who is thrown into this role. Remember 
    you are not alone. Your work will be to gather as 
    much research and information to help you discern 
    what is appropriate for you and your parent. 
    You will need to learn how to delegate your time, 
    how to set boundaries, how to communicate more 
    effectively, how to say no, and organize your time 
    as well as theirs.
    First it is important for you to ascertain whether 
    or not their mental or physical abilities have 
    diminished and by how much. We know that 
    certain limitations develop as we age, but to 
    what extent is the most important factor. If the 
    factors that present themselves to you are 
    more serious in nature, then you will have to 
    intervene in an entirely different manner.
    Some of the facts you must assess are as follows:
    Is my parent capable of preparing meals, dressing 
    themselves, able to get around on their own?
    Is my parent social? Are they happy? Are they 
    depressed and living in utter isolation?
    What are their mental faculties like at this time? 
    Are they capable and responsible in paying their 
    bills? Are they showing signs of memory loss where 
    it can become a detriment to themselves? Are 
    they able to take their medications according 
    to the doctor's prescription? Are they able to 
    speak up for themselves and still get their needs 
    met? Is their decision making process a detriment 
    to their health and well- being? Are they able to 
    maintain their home on the inside as well 
    as outside?
    Hopefully if your parents need help, they will 
    ask for it but what if they don't. Are you going 
    to be able to do all that is required to protect 
    them in the proper way to maintain and keep 
    the quality of their life up? If you are unable to 
    even begin processing this evaluation process in 
    terms of giving yourself answers to the questions 
    posed here, then, perhaps, you need to hire a 
    professional such as a Geriatric Care Manager, 
    a therapist, who can assess and evaluate your 
    parent's situation properly. Even meeting with 
    their primary physician might point you in the 
    right direction. Getting the support you need to 
    make clear decisions as to the care your parent 
    needs should be your priority. 
    If you decide to take the role of caregiver on 
    permanently, you must enroll the support of as 
    many family members, close friends and 
    neighbors and professionals to assure your 
    parents of getting the quality help they deserve.
    Keep in mind the feelings your parent might be 
    experiencing at these times as well; their loss 
    of a spouse, the loss of independence, their 
    physical losses, loss of friends. They may also 
    be feeling guilt, shame or embarrassed at having 
    to rely on you or others for help.
    Keep your parent independent by involving them 
    in choices and decisions. There are always 
    options. If you are not able to care for them 
    properly, bring in a professional who can advise 
    you and your parent. If your parent(s) need(s) 
    to be living in a situation other than on their 
    own in their own home, there are options. Be 
    well informed rather than controlling and 
    There are many alternatives to keep your 
    parent(s) busy during the day such as senior 
    centers, adult care and more. Remain calm, 
    balanced and focused in caring for yourself 
    as well as your loved one.
    We look forward to the opportunity of serving 
    you. We welcome your comments, suggestions, 
    and questions. 
    Please feel free to contact us at: 
    Related Articles to begin understanding about
    your role as a caregiver:
    Caregiver's Bill Of Rights

    Family Caregivers
    Are Given More Than They Can Handle

    Stress Of Caregiving Affects
    Immune System Functioning

    Stress And Burnout

    Negative Or Positive Choicest

    Caregiver Guilt

    Long Distance Caregiver

    How To Set Up A Support System

    Caregiving for Parent or Elderly Person
    Baby Boomers Fear Talking
    To Parents About Death

    Boomers' Main Page

    Boomers' Caregiver's Archives
    Gail's Web Site : Empowering Caregivers
    Welcome to Boomers International.
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