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Five Questions All Caregivers Should Ask Themselves

Are you prepared to take on the responsibility of caregiving? How do you know if you can handle the commitment of having your parent move in? What signals alert you that you are in trouble of getting lost in caregiving? How do you know when caregiving has become too much and its time to think about other arrangements?

Many of us dove into caregiving with full hearts and no planning, then ended up sustaining this life-altering mode for months and often years. But at some point as a caregiver, you need to have a honest, realistic talk with yourself. You will, eventually need to include others in your final decisions, but some honest, quiet soul searching can help you sort out your own priorities and determine how much you can handle.

  1. Do you have children at home? What are their needs?
  2. Do you have a supportive spouse or partner, a negative partner, or no partner? How does this relationship affect your caregiving and how does your caregiving affect your relationship?
  3. Are you are social person, a loner or somewhere in between? How do you fit in your "alone time," your own social life and your work and family needs with your caregiving?
  4. Where do you need to draw a line and say "I can do this much and no more." You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your response to them.
  5. Will you continue watchfulness and maintenance of your own health, or will you let that slip? You, too, must be a priority.

These are questions at the heart caregiving. Unfortunately, for most caregivers, these questions do not arise until they are feeling overwhelmed and depleted. Being able to say, "No, I can no longer continue to provide care in this way," could possibly save you from emotional and physical burnout, while deepening the level of honesty and openness in your relationships with your parents and family.

There may come a time when our parents and elderly loved ones need more help than we can give them. Accepting this isn't easy, but its crucial not only for the health and safety of your loved one, but for your own well-being as well. If you don't have siblings to help you look for care options, or you have them but they truly refuse to help, you aren't the first person this has happened to. Leave no stone unturned until you get some help. You do have options:

Home health care.Home care is generally defined as non-medical support services delivered at the home of the senior. The aim of home care is to allow seniors to remain at home longer rather than enter an assisted living community, nursing home or other type of senior care.

Assisted living, nursing homes or other senior care residences. If you need to move your elders into assisted living or a nursing home, then do your homework and find the best option available. Assure them that you aren't abandoning them, but you can't care for them all alone.

Caregiver Support Programs. Check your state's website and find their version of "aging services." Each state has a version of the Family Caregiver Support Program. It may go by a different name in your state, but they generally give wonderful support – both practical and emotional. If you live in an area where you have an Area Agency on Aging, they provide a great deal of community support.

Counseling. If you are guilt-ridden or filled with resentment no matter what you do, see a counselor.

The point is, you must find some balance in your life. If you go years being eaten up with resentment, your own health will suffer. And you won't be as good a caregiver as you want to be. Far better to find some respite and balance your life, once the emergency that got you into caregiving has passed, than to have your own life go down in flames.

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.
 






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