March 30, 2021
It isn’t easy to care for elderly parents. As your parents age and require more assistance, it can be a significant burden on you and your family. And what’s worse is the guilt and obligation to be a loving child despite the strain that comes with providing care for your elderly parents.
If you don’t want to care for your elderly parents, or are merely scared at the prospect of taking on such a major task, you’re far from alone. It’s okay to ask for help with caregiver needs. After all, many of us aren’t trained to be aging life care professionals. Thankfully, there is a network of care professionals who can ease the burden that comes with caring for elderly parents.
Here are a few common challenges with taking care of aging parents, as well as strategies for how you can recruit a care team to help.
Even if you feel like you might be going through the challenges of caregiving alone, you’re far from the only one. In fact, many of the challenges that come with providing care for elderly parents transcend not just individual caregivers, but also generational and gender divides as well. It seems that as far as taking care of an elderly parent is concerned, the challenges posed in one’s own life—as well as that of the person receiving care—are somewhat similar.
Here are a few of the most common challenges caregivers face, as well as some tips on how you can overcome these obstacles.
Many caregivers have to juggle work, personal needs, and those of their immediate family. As a result, many put their own interests and needs at the bottom of the to-do list. One recent study by AARP states that 23 percent of family caregivers spend 41 or more hours a week on caregiving. This leaves little time for hobbies, vacations, or personal time.
Juggling caregiving responsibilities with one’s own career can be complicated. Sixty percent of respondents said that they have had to cut back on their working hours or take a leave of absence to manage their elder care duties. This group also included people who have received a warning about work performance or attendance.
Many of the caregiving duties can place a considerable amount of physical and emotional stress on the caregiver. If an elderly parent has health issues that require assistance for basic tasks, the caregiver may have to do physical lifting and other strenuous activities to provide proper care.
In 2020, researchers found that 53 million adults provide unpaid care for a loved one, and a majority of older caregivers are going it alone without additional support—be it paid or unpaid. The additional challenges that come with taking care of a loved one takes a physical toll on caregivers as well: 22 percent of respondents said that their health had gotten worse since they took on this new responsibility.
And the emotional stress to care for elderly parents can heavily weigh on you as you navigate keeping them well. Even when you’re not with them, you may worry that they’ll be okay in your absence.
Another recent study stated that 44 percent of caregivers spend $5,000 or more out of pocket to care for their elderly parents. At least one quarter spends at $10,000 or more annually. The expenses that come with caring for an elderly parent can add up significantly and quickly, even when the parent (or parents) live with their caretaking child. Typical costs to care for elderly parents include:
The financial strain that comes with caregiving can significantly affect personal and family finances, often without much reimbursement from health insurance or through tax deductions. This leaves caretakers holding the bag, and having to reevaluate their own budgeting in the process.
If you’re unsure if you can afford to maintain the quality of care you and your parents want, check our cost of care calculator to see what you need, and what financial resources (such as a life insurance plan) might be available to you.
Many elderly peoples’ sleep-wake cycle can become irregular as they age, which means that caregivers often have to sacrifice their own sleep to accommodate that of the parent they care for. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate feelings of stress, depression, and have detrimental effects on a person’s physical health. When combined with the other challenges of providing care, sleep deprivation can make a difficult situation even harder.
When caring for a parent in your home, privacy can become an issue—especially in smaller homes where space is already at a premium. Caregivers usually cannot get away to enjoy private time to themselves, either because the recipient of care needs the caregiver to be on call at all times, or because there simply isn’t enough space under one roof to make private time a possibility.
Between a career, family needs, and caregiving needs, individuals can become isolated and depressed because their own lives lack balance. This can lead to breaking social connections outside the home because there simply isn’t time for it, leaving the caregiver isolated.
Granted, not all caregivers will experience mental health challenges as they care for an elderly parent. The likelihood of experiencing some kind of depression or anxiety is high, however—even for people that have not experienced these issues before. Typical symptoms of depression and anxiety include (but are not limited to):
Some caregivers can feel intimidated to ask for help because they feel asking for help is a sign of weakness, inadequacy, or shame. They can often feel guilt that they cannot provide proper care and can become embarrassed to ask. These feelings are normal and common, but few caregivers feel comfortable expressing them. In these cases, it may make sense to lessen your load and bring on a geriatric care manager to help.
To create an effective care plan, you need to enlist other people to help. Start by talking to your elderly parents about enlisting outside help, and what their comfort level is with getting other people involved in their medical and daily needs. Depending on what your parent says, you can either bring in friends or family members, or seek out professional assistance from a care manager or care team.
In some cases, getting help from other family members can be a challenge—be it due to geographical limitations or family dynamics. In others, professional help might be the only recourse: serious medical issues or unique situations may call for more than just a spare set of hands.
Here’s what you need to know about putting the right care team in place. To find the right team near you, check out our care manager locator tool.
Before you can recruit a care team, you need to identify what areas you need help. These often include:
You should ask yourself which of these areas pose the greatest challenge for yourself, and are of the utmost importance to your parent or parents. Thankfully, care providers can help with each of these tasks (and more).
If you need professionals to help care for your parents, there are a couple of ways you can find aging life care professionals.
There are many different home care agencies in most suburban and urban areas. You can search the internet or talk to your parent’s doctor about agencies they recommend. If you know what areas you need the most help, the agency will be able to assign the best professional to help with aging in place.
The benefits of using an agency include:
Home care agencies are designed to take the guesswork out of how to best care for your parents. They’ll be able to tailor a solution that best serves you and your family.
The benefits of hiring a private care professional include:
Both options are great ways to get additional help. What option you choose is a personal preference.
If caring for your elderly parent is particularly cumbersome or overwhelming, you may want to consider hiring a geriatric care manager.
According to the National Institute on Aging, a geriatric care manager is a licensed nurse or social worker specializing in geriatric care. They assess, plan, implement a sustainable long-term care plan for your elderly parent. They also make periodic visits to evaluate the quality of the care.
You are not alone in caring for your age-in-place parent. There are several groups and programs available to assist you:
There are also lots of support groups and programs that can help with caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s, dementia, cancer, disabilities, and other common ailments. You can find additional resources for these organizations at The National Alliance for Caregiving.
You love your parents, but caring for elderly parents can be very difficult, depending on their needs. If you are feeling overwhelmed or are starting to show signs of caregiver fatigue, get help.
Talk to your family and discuss the best plan moving forward where others can assist you. This may include hiring aging life care professionals or a geriatric care manager to reduce your burden and provide the best care for your elderly parent.