In most cases, taking on the role of a caregiver for the elderly can be a very challenging experience for a number of reasons.
If you were to ask 100 caregivers how much they enjoyed taking care of the seniors in their life I wonder what percentage could honestly say they loved what they were doing? Five percent, ten percent, or twenty-five percent? Perhaps, none of the above.
It can be a thankless experience for a good number of reasons.
I’m not referring to caregivers abusing the seniors in their life. It’s actually the other way around. Quite often there are abusive seniors who subject their adult children caregivers to verbal, physical, and emotional abuse.
Often when an adult caregiver is caring for their parent, they have to put up with a certain amount of abuse. In some cases, seniors will treat their caregiver children much as they did throughout most of their lives.
For instance, if a senior was demanding, controlling, and overbearing toward their children as they were growing up, what’s to say that’s going to change because their kids are seniors themselves?
On the contrary, they might still be demanding and unreasonable despite how hard their caregiver tries to help them. It can soon become a love/hate relationship.
Some people might ask, “why do you take care of them when all you get is abuse in return?”
It’s no different from asking a wife why she continues to forgive and go back to an abusive husband?
The problem is, there are many people in this world who love too much and often this sentiment will come back to haunt them.
GUILT IS A POWERFUL FORCE
Most likely, guilt is the driving force behind many caregivers sticking it out no matter how difficult things become.
Even though their own immediate family life might suffer, they carry on being a caregiver for someone who most likely doesn’t appreciate them.
A family caregiver can’t imagine leaving their senior trying to survive on their own, no matter how difficult that senior can be to please.
Many caregivers suffer mentally, physically, and emotionally and yet will carry on for years because it’s just too difficult to break away from what they perceive is their responsibility.
Sometimes the best thing is to just let go and allow social services to step in and find a retirement home situation that best suits the senior.
THE LONGEVITY CURSE
With people living much longer on average, becoming a caregiver could result in taking care of the senior in your life far longer than you ever expected.
Say you are 55 and you decide to do the right thing and become the adult child caregiver for your 75-year-old parent.
Your first thought might be that it won’t be something you will have to do for all that long.
But the years continue to pass by and your parent is 95 and still clinging to some semblance of life. They might have Dementia and may not know what’s going on most of the time but they are still alive and have to be cared for.
In the meantime, you have reached 75 years of age. So what happens to your retirement plans?
What if your parent runs out of money and you have slowly eaten away at your own retirement savings to help them out?
Now you become part of the never-ending circle of life and someone will have to be your caregiver.
NOT ALL KIDS CARE
It must be so frustrating and hurtful when a caregiver’s brothers and sisters refuse to step in and help out with caring for their parents.
What a difference it would make if there were even just two siblings willing to share the caregiving load. That means 50% of the time you can concentrate on your other responsibilities.
Maybe they realize that if they step in and get involved it might carry on for years on end. So, ultimately they decide to stay out of it from the get-go and far often it’s one person trying to do the best they can on their own.
Alternatively, there are adult children who share the caregiving role and it becomes a contest to win the parent’s favor by doing more for your parent than your sibling.
Sibling rivalry is not just something that happens when you are young.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
You would think it would be enough if a caregiver gives five years or so of their lives to caring for their parents.
Maybe from the very beginning this and other ground rules should be out in the open so there are no hurt feelings.
Stipulate from the beginning that you will do your best to look after them for a pre-determined time frame and then consider other available options.
When you feel you have given enough of yourself to helping out it might be time to look at other options.
If finances are not an issue, why not consider a senior in-home care service?
At least with a care service to help out you might be able to take yourself on a much-needed vacation.
Another option if your senior is not able to look after themselves would be to begin visiting retirement homes to see what facility would suit them best.
For instance, would they do better in an Assisted Living or Independent Living environment? There are even College and University students who will be live-in caregivers for free for room and board in order to ease the ever-increasing financial cost burden of education.
Students who are studying to work in the social services field would be an excellent choice.
There should be a special place in Heaven for adult caregivers. After all, they are about as close to angels on earth as you can get.
They sacrifice so much of themselves on so many levels and often ask for nothing in return. It might appear to be a thankless task at times and maybe a breaking point will be reached.
Sometimes their careers suffer. They are tired all the time from putting in 14 or 15 hour days week after week with no respite, yet still, they don’t complain.
Then there are the lucky ones who had excellent childhoods and their way of paying it forward is to look after their parents. For some, it’s not something they feel they have to do, but rather something they want to do.
Still, even if the relationship between caregiver and senior is a good one effort should be made for caregivers to take a break on occasion and maybe go on a holiday.
Some options might be in-home-care, senior daycare, or simply having a willing family member step in for a while.
Above all, it’s important to keep in mind that one day we could well find ourselves in need of help as we grow older.
Would you like to share your thoughts on this topic? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.