When You Need Help Caring for Your Parents

Written by Meg Pemberton
Photo Caregiver MVP on Home Care News

Whether it happens suddenly or over a period of time, as many of us prepare for our retirement years, we will find ourselves in this predicament. A confused Dad places a plastic bowl in the oven to heat up a meal or you’re asking for another day off to ferry your Mom to multiple medical appointments. The realization you need help to care for your parents may be sudden or something you’ve been thinking for some time. However, you thought you could do this. All of this. Recognizing you are struggling and need help caring for your parents comes with many emotions; fear, guilt, anger, sadness, a sense of failure, or perhaps relief. All of these emotions are normal. What happens when you realize you need help to care for your parents?

The Visceral Response

My initial response was to soldier on, I could do this. My family could do this. My husband, daughters and siblings were all supportive. This was what my parents wanted. However, I truly feared what was coming. How would we manage what was yet to come? Admittedly there was a trace of anger. Twice a day dressing changes for months became overwhelming. Dealing with Mom’s denial regarding my Dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was stressful; involving a lot of late night calls and after work visits. The guilt was overwhelming. Guilt over spending less time with my husband and daughters. Guilt because they were helping my parents when they should not have had to. Guilt that I wasn’t doing enough for my parents. Guilt that I wasn’t giving 100% at work.

Signs you Need Help

Every eldercare journey is different. The pace is largely determined by the increasing difficulty your elder parents face. Adult children as caregivers will respond differently. Our journeys may be similar but each is unique. When you realize you need help to care for your parents you may continue to struggle; feeling a failure and not knowing where to turn. My advice to you is to NOT resist the urge to ask for help. Getting help may provide you much needed rest, less stress, and peace. Here are a few signs that it’s time to seek assistance.

  • Ignoring your self-care needs
    • Lack of sleep
    • Poor eating habits
    • Little or no exercise
    • Zero “me time”
  • Spending less quality time with your immediate family
    • Forgetting important family milestones
    • Missing family events
  • Not staying in touch with or spending time with friends
  • Missing too many days at work

If you recognize any of these signs it’s time to get help. I was living almost all of the signs noted. I learned what I had long suspected. No one can truly multitask effectively.

Finding the Resource that Fits Best

In a prior blog post, “Lessons for the Family Caregiver,” I shared some information regarding some resources (click here). Identifying which resource to use will depend on your unique situation. See below for two resources and their roles.

  • Home visits and suggest needed services
  • Assist with making short- and long-term plans
  • In-home care evaluation of needs
  • Coordination of medical services
  • Evaluation of alternative living arrangements
  • Certified Senior Advisors (CSA) are ideal for helping adult children and seniors identify appropriate resources within their community. This includes identifying the best options and solutions for maintaining the quality of life desired. Services include:
  • Recommendations and referrals to local resources (e.g.: Home Care Agencies, Assisted Living, how to find caregivers)
  • Home assessments for safety and evaluation of needs
  • Assistance with financial planning
  • Assistance with Medicare and Medicaid
  • Assistance with identifying applicable Veteran’s benefits

Many of the services provided by GCMs and CSAs overlap; each providing, to some degree, the same services noted. The differences between the two may be solely their education and level of certification. GCMs may be found in a variety of facilities providing ombudsman type services for residents. CSAs may be found in a variety of agencies (e.g.: non-medical home health agencies). Many financial planners are also CSAs. Both GCMs and CSAs may provide consultative services in the effort to support seniors and their families.

Decisions, Decisions

Once you’ve recognized the need for assistance it’s time to do some research. Time, distance, money, and the most obvious needs of your parents will dictate where to look first. If your journey is just beginning with a new diagnosis of dementia, your parent’s primary care physician can point you in the right direction. However, reaching out to your local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter or Area Agency on Aging are good places to start.  If your parent is in need of companion or personal care, a GCM or CSA can help you identify the best fit be it in home or an assisted living situation. The options are many and they are varied both in level of service and cost. Please see my growing list of resources (click here).

We chose a GCM to help us navigate the world of assisted living and Medicaid (for Dad’s eventual move to skilled care). She was an amazing resource. We could not have managed as well as we did without her.

Just remember, it’s okay to ask for help.

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