The balancing act of caring for a family and looking after aging parents can be very stressful. Ensuring you are up to it requires a total approach, one of mind, body, and spirit.
Statistics Canada reports that more than 60% of those working and caring for an older person felt that taking care of a senior was simply giving back what they had been given and 70% said the relationship was strengthened.
- Play the hand you were dealt. The circumstances you find yourself in may not be exactly what you had hoped for. But your parents need you and you need to be there for them. Don’t carry around emotional baggage of thoughts like: “I wish it wasn’t like this,” or “How did I get stuck with this?”. Come to terms with your situation and make the best of it. You’ll be better off and so will the people around you.
- Live for today. Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come. Learn to live in the present. Take a calm look at what you can do to make your life better for yourself, your family, and the person you are caring for today. Don’t zap your energy fretting about your parent’s losses (strength, independence, vitality) or worrying about the future.
- Be a visionary. Learn to visualize your goals and how you’d like your life to be – for your family and anyone under your care. This visualization can include physical issues (how you’d worry less if Dad used a walker or cane when he went out), or other issues (such as a less confrontational relationship with your mother). Imagine how things would be better if you made some changes, and then take the next step towards those changes.
- Take action. Tell yourself that you can take action and that despite what you may think, you are not at the mercy of your circumstances. Don’t let your present situation control you. Tell yourself that you can make things happen and that you can handle whatever comes your way. Then seek solutions logically and realistically.
Providing care often imposes substantial restrictions on social activities, holiday plans, finances and sleep patterns of the caregiver. Some 45% of women and 54% of men who provided at least 7.5 hours of care a week reported that at least three of these four elements had changed as a result of their eldercare responsibilities. For every additional hour of care provided, both womenís and menís scores on the social consequences index increased by 0.8%.
—Eldercare in Canada: Who does how much? Judith Frederick and Janet Fast, Statistics Canada
- Think positive. Don’t underestimate the power of a positive outlook—it’ll give you the will and the strength to manage and triumph over daily challenges. Developing this rosy view of life takes practice, but it pays dividends everywhere.
- Overcome your fear. Sudden or sustained responsibilities represent new demands and often require new skills. Thus, these new responsibilities can be frightening. While it’s natural to feel anxious or reluctant, don’t let these feelings overwhelm or paralyze you with inaction. Take it one step at a time.
- Be good to yourself. Uncertainty or self-doubt can drain enormous amounts of nervous energy, leaving you tired and frustrated. You will make mistakes, yell at people and begin to doubt your ability even more. Don’t get trapped in this vicious circle. Treat yourself well (including taking respite and wellness breaks), and you will treat others better.
- Eat well. Ensuring your body is up to the task begins with what you eat. The food you choose can dramatically impact your energy levels, as well as prevent illness and disease. Eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, a variety of grains, beans, and lean meats and fish. It is also a good idea to drink eight glasses of water a day.
- Respect your body. Be sensible in the amount of alcohol you drink. Keep your weight reasonable – it takes a lot of energy to move excess pounds around. As for smoking… one word – don’t!
- Exercise. Last but not least, stay active. Make exercise a top priority in your life – and remain committed to it. A well-rounded fitness routine includes strength training (weight lifting), aerobic conditioning (cardiovascular exercise), and flexibility training (stretching). Exercise will increase mental sharpness and physical endurance, reduce your risk of heart and other diseases, and as an added bonus, help you look your best.
- Lavretsky H, et al. (2013). A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: Effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 28;57.
- Van Puymbroeck M, et al. (2007). A phase 1 feasibility study of yoga on the physical health and coping of informal caregivers. 4:519.
- Waelde, L. C. et al. (2004). A pilot study of a yoga and meditation intervention for dementia caregiver stress. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 60:677.
- Yoga: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm.
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