Many baby boomers are leading complicated lives nowadays. As people enter their fifties and sixties, they often have to juggle plans for their upcoming retirement while putting their own kids through college and welcoming the first grandchildren. For some baby boomers, there is also the extra task of caring for aging parents. These responsibilities can be difficult and stressful. Luckily, there are a number of tips and hints that can make caregiving easier for busy members of the boomer generation.
1. Take Care of Your Own Health
If you don’t take care of your own physical and emotional health, it can be difficult to take care of other people. To be the best caregiver you can be, it’s important to stay in good health. Try not to let your responsibilities get in the way of a healthy lifestyle with good food, exercise, and enough sleep. There may be difficult days when you’re just too busy to cook fresh food or head outside for a walk, but you can always be on the lookout for opportunities to refresh and restore yourself. Investing in your own health will make you a better caretaker for aging parents.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource
We’ve all heard the old cliché that “time is money.” When it comes to caring for an older member of the family, you should protect your time as carefully as you protect your money. By hiring someone to come in for a few hours a week and help you with everyday tasks, you can take the pressure off your schedule and create some much-needed free time for yourself.
3. Consider Using Professional Respite Care
When you’re caring for a parent who is more seriously disabled, the tasks of daily life can seem overwhelming at times. Professional caregivers can be hired to replace you for a day, a weekend, or an entire week. Some insurance policies are able to cover this sort of respite care. After taking a break from the heavy responsibilities of elder care, you can return home well-rested and ready to take on your duties again. Your medical professional can help you arrange these services.
4. Use a Companion Service
Many churches and charitable organizations are able to arrange “companion services,” where a trained person can keep your loved one company during part of the day. Although companion services aren’t a substitute for trained medical care, they are an important part of elder care in many families. When older parents are in a friendly environment, they are less likely to become lonely and depressed. By inviting a companion into their home or living facility, you can help them stay alert and mentally healthy.
5. Try to Allow Freedom Whenever Possible
It can be difficult to find yourself in a caregiving role with your parents. After depending on them during your childhood and adolescence, you’re now the person taking care of them. The situation can become less awkward when you allow them as much freedom as you can. Remember that you’re there to help them live as independent a life as possible. Even if a parent is no longer able to drive, there are many alternative ways of getting around town. Transit services can pick up clients and deliver them to the location of their choice. Many churches and community centers offer ride-sharing programs. Some older people are able to move to planned communities where everything they need is within easy walking distance. With a little creativity, you can find solutions to help keep your parents independent for as long as possible.
6. Involve the Whole Family
As the average life expectancy continues to go up, families are getting bigger and more diverse. Many people live to see their great-grandchildren born. Some people even get to watch them grow up. As you care for your elderly parents, you can involve all the generations of your family. For a baby or a toddler, visiting with Great-Grandma can be a wonderful way to spend the weekend. Seniors also enjoy the benefits of these visits. They are less prone to depression and anxiety when they spend time around young family members.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Hard Discussions
When you’re caring for an older parent, there are tough discussions that need to take place. Don’t be afraid to talk about living wills, end-of-life care, and inheritance issues. Open communication about these things can make everyone more comfortable in the long run.
8. Make a Caregiving Budget
Caregiving can be expensive, especially for baby boomers who already have a range of other family responsibilities. Some expenses, such as adaptive devices and hospital stays, can be a major part of your family budget. Simpler jobs such as pet care and yard work can be covered at a lower cost. Are there young people in your neighborhood who would like to earn some pocket money? Consider hiring them for odd jobs and freeing up your own time. With a little creativity, you can balance your caregiving budget.
9. Consider the Benefits of “Aging in Place”
When people talk about caring for the elderly, they often think of retirement homes and other planned living communities. Staying at home can also be a good choice for many aging people. “Aging in place” has many advantages. Homes and apartments can be adapted to fit wheelchairs and walkers. New furniture can be installed to make life more comfortable for elderly people with decreased mobility. The cost of these adaptations is often much lower than the cost of moving into a retirement home.
10. Focus on the Positive
Although caring for aging parents can be difficult and stressful, there are also many advantages to spending time with the oldest generation of the family. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren can develop close relationships which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Family stories and jokes can be enjoyed for many years. As different generations come together and share their memories, you can make a video diary or a special scrapbook to preserve them in.
Many baby boomers in our society are caring for elderly parents. The job comes with its own challenges and rewards. By taking care of yourself and using the resources at hand, you can survive and thrive as a family caregiver.
Lauren Hill writes for LiftCaregiving, a company offering support to caregivers in the Richmond, VA area.
“What Baby Boomers Need To Know About Taking Care of Their Aging Parent,” http://www.seniornestreferrals.com/what-baby-boomers-need-to-know-about-taking-care-of-their-aging-parent/
“Aging in Place Workbook,” https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2010/mmi-aging-place-workbook.pdf