I am the oldest of three kids and the one who lives closest to our parents. My dad had a stroke last month and is no longer able to drive. My mom was always a nervous driver in her younger days and gave it up entirely about 15 years ago.
While I’ve been helping them out here and there over the last few years, it has become a full-time challenge since my Dad had his stroke. I work part-time at the local bank and have three busy teenagers. I’m really feeling stressed out and worn out, and more than a little resentful that my siblings don’t really help.
Do you have any advice for new caregivers? I could sure use some.
Katrina in Ludington, Michigan
We hear similar stories from adult daughters almost every day in the Heritage Senior Communities across Michigan. You are definitely not alone. The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that 65.7 million people in the U.S. provide care to someone they love. AARP reports show that unpaid caregiving services add up to $450 billion a year.
Family caregiver is a tough responsibility to take on. But we do have a few tips we think will help.
5 Tips to Help New Caregivers in Michigan
- Take Care of You: For new caregivers, this probably doesn’t sound like very realistic advice. But you can’t care for your parents if you end up with a serious illness yourself. And the statistics on caregiver health can be sobering. Gallup surveys found that a typical healthy adult has an average physical health score of 83. The average caregiver, however, only scores a 77.4.
- Ask for Help. Accepting the idea that you will need help on a routine basis and knowing where it will come from is important. Maybe your siblings can each pitch in one weekend a month? Or if they live too far away to do that, ask them to cover the expense of an in-home care aide a few hours each week. Also know that many senior living communities in Michigan offer short-term respite stays to give caregivers a break. Your local church might have a “friendly visitor” program where volunteers from the church provide support to homebound seniors.
- Organize their Medical File: Keeping all of a senior loved one’s appointments, medical paperwork, and prescriptions organized can feel overwhelming. Taking time to create a home medical file will help you feel like you are on track and prepared. There are also apps you can download to your smart phone or tablet device that allow you to safely store this information for easy access.
- Manage your Expectations: Another caregiver survival tip is to set realistic expectations for yourself. It might mean accepting that your own home won’t always be immaculate or that dinner one or two nights a week might be a healthy choice from the take-out menu of a local restaurant. Be kind to yourself and don’t feel badly about relaxing your expectations while you are caregiving.
- Create an Emergency Plan: Our final tip is a critical one. Create an back-up plan for your aging parents’ care in the event of an emergency. If something happens to you, what will happen to them? The plan might be for them to receive services from an in-home care agency or temporarily move to an assisted living community. Just be sure you have a plan is in place before a crisis occurs.
I hope these tips help, Katrina! We invite you to call the Heritage Senior Community nearest to your parents if you need more information or have questions about respite care.