Let’s agree to admit something right off the bat – taking care of someone is hard. No matter how much we love our children and our parents, taking care of them (especially both at the same time) can be a challenge. As we get more and more tied up in providing for someone else, we have less time for our own needs and dreams, often less time to sleep and exercise, and all of that can take a toll on our physical and mental health. We are also not accustomed to putting ourselves first, and can slowly get lost in all the obligations, errands, and tasks. If you are at the same time faced with raising kids of any age, and caring for aging parents, here is our guide to staying yourself, and making it through in one piece:
Involve them while and when you can
Don’t assume all of the decision-making yourself. If you expect your parents to get more ill or lose some of their abilities in the near future, talk to them about how they want to deal with the changes. Don’t alter their lives in a way you feel is best for them, without getting their input on it. Remember, you wouldn’t want someone to just come into your life and change everything about it.
The same goes for your kids – try to get them involved in the family decisions, as much as it’s appropriate for their age. Don’t be a commander, be a counselor, and try to factor in everyone’s wishes. That way, you will get less resistance and more cooperation.
Build a support system – for them and for yourself
No matter what you think, you don’t actually have to do it all yourself. You can (and should!) illicit the help of other family members, relatives, and friends, to a certain extent at least. Don’t resist the idea of hiring help if you need to, either – even if it means someone else does the cleaning.
Find someone you can talk to about the stress levels in your life, whether it’s a good friend or a therapist. Keeping your mental health in check is just as important as not forgetting to eat healthy and stay hydrated.
Make your parents’ home a safe place
You can save yourself a lot of worry by ensuring that you know your parents are less likely to slip in the tub or shower, or accidentally burn the house down. For example, having the bathroom refitted with walk-in showers and grab bars will let you sleep just a little bit easier. Having a stove that will automatically turn off if left unattended will do the same.
You can also install an alarm system and a panic button if you need to. Make sure your parents know when and how to use them.
Depending on the age of your kids and your parents, find a way to let them know when you are tired or stressed. Making them aware of your own feelings will help improve your communication, and they’ll be more understanding if you are a bit short with them on a particular day.
Try to establish a system where you are open about everything – how you feel mentally and physically, and make it okay to talk to each other about anything. A co-dependent relationship can always be taxing, but you can make it easier by telling each other how you feel.
Schedule in some me-time
And don’t think of it as selfish. If you keep giving and giving, and not bothering to recharge your own batteries, your own health and wellbeing will start to suffer.
Whatever me-time means, find the time to do it. Whether it’s just staying in with a book or taking a yoga class, do something just for yourself every day if you can, or at least several times a week.
Being a good caregiver is also a lot about taking care of yourself. Don’t forget that.
Don’t let the bad days get you down
And forgive yourself if you are ever late, or the dinner is a bit over-done, or if you just don’t have the energy for something. You are human, and you’re going to have better days and not as good days. If you beat yourself up over every bad day you have, you’re never going to get out of the cycle of negativity. Accept that a day was off, and move on. A better one will come.
Knowing that there are several people who depend on your care and guidance can be taxing and often quite overwhelming. Hopefully, our tips will help you adjust to your situation, and sail through it as best as you can.