Caring for an elderly family member can be one of the hardest — and most rewarding — things that you’ll do. In your younger years, this person cared for you and now it’s time to return the favor. Every family has a different situation and needs, so it’s important to find ways to take care of the elderly person in a way that works for you and your loved one. Though you may have to make some sacrifices, you shouldn’t have to give up too much.
Assess your family member’s needs. She may be able to live alone at her home, ] needing only a bit of help with driving to get groceries or cleaning the home. She may need more help than that, needing to live with you or in a nursing home that provides medical care.
Talk to your family member about what he’d like from you, and what he wants to do. Be as open and supportive as possible, acknowledging his feelings. He may resent you if you do too much for him, but he also may be too embarrassed to ask for the help that he needs. Be tactful as you explore this balance and determine what level of care is safe and comfortable for you both.
Create a fair caregiving schedule with all family members. Consider where everyone lives and how much time each person has available. Responsibility tends to fall on the person who lives nearest to the family member or the person who works less than others. If this is true in your family, look for ways that the others can help out. Too much responsibility on any one person can lead to resentment.
Cook your elderly family member’s favorite meals. If she’s living alone, make big batches and freeze single servings so that she needs to simply microwave the meal. When living alone, elderly people may cut back on cooking healthy meals, so unobtrusively check her pantry and refrigerator even if she insists she’s doing fine.
Find elderly services in your family member’s area. Charitable organizations often provide transportation to doctor appointments or meals to seniors. Even if he’s living with you and has his basic needs met, he can benefit from interaction with others at senior social groups. Even a short program a few times a week can provide welcome relief to caretakers, as well.
Learn about your family member’s condition and what you can do to improve it. Elderly people often face many medical problems. Learn what to expect and how to deal with the emotions that come up from watching a family member’s physical or mental state deteriorate.
Get the support you need. Taking care of an elderly family member can be physically and emotionally draining work and you deserve a break. Talking with other caregivers can help you learn to cope. Working in shifts with other caregivers can also give you a much-needed respite from the stress of caretaking.