Question: I am a 65-year-old woman from Lowell who has some caregiving challenges. As an only child, I have always been close to my mother, who is now 96, in failing health, and living with me. I work part-time out of financial necessity, and between the demands of my job and my mother’s needs, I am feeling very “sandwiched.” Have you got any suggestions?
Answer: As people are living longer, many adults aged 60 and over find themselves caring for their often-frail parents and other loved ones, according to The Fifty Plus Advocate. These older caregivers may have significant health issues of their own; many are still working, and they frequently struggle with fatigue, depression, and loneliness.
Caregiving has significant rewards. Most of us want to support those who have loved and aided us over the years, and loyalty to them is often a core value. It’s no surprise that caregivers want to give their all, sometimes neglecting to care for themselves. But unless caregivers address their essential needs, they cannot meet those of their loved ones either.
The Mayo Clinic suggests caregivers reduce their stress by following these tips:
Accept help: Let others know what you need. Write a list of various ways people can help you. Perhaps a friend can take your loved one for a walk once a week, pick up your groceries, or do a couple of errands. Ask around.
Focus on what’s possible: Realize that you can’t do everything. You may have physical limitations of your own. Take these into account and give yourself credit for all that you manage to accomplish. Know you are doing the best you can under sometimes challenging circumstances.
Set realistic goals: A traditional saying relates that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Breaking large tasks into smaller, more manageable components can make them seem less formidable. And don’t be afraid to say no to requests that can needlessly drain your energy.
Tap available resources: Don’t go it alone! Many senior centers and community groups have classes and resources that can help. At AgeSpan, we provide services that can make a world of difference, such as caregiver support groups, transportation, meal delivery, and assistance with housework. Our Healthy Living Center of Excellence offers a free, evidence-based workshop, the Savvy Caregiver Program, for those assisting a loved one who has dementia. This six-week course gives caregivers the kind of in-depth training healthcare professionals often receive. We also have programs for people living with chronic disease, chronic pain, and diabetes.
Join a support group: You can benefit from the wisdom and camaraderie of people experiencing a similar situation. These peers understand exactly what you’re facing and can offer their fresh, informed perspective.
I wish you and your mother all the best.