Eldercare Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the HIGEST HONORS.” Tia Walker

My mother has led a very disciplined and healthy life for most of her lifespan. She has achieved the age of 93. There has been a slow decline since she touched 92. The decline has been rapid in the last six months, and doctors tell me it is natural. The body ages and some challenges start to appear. Memory starts deteriorating, and vision and hearing become a problem.

Her declining capabilities in cooking, knitting, cleaning, getting dressed up, etc., vexes her. She feels bad that I have to take on the additional responsibilities of caring for her and attending to her needs.

She celebrated her 93rd birthday last week. Unfortunately, she no longer remembered her birth date and was surprised and delighted when my husband and myself wished her in the morning. Our neighbours and friends decided to celebrate her birthday and came in with a cake. She was so happy that she called up her relatives and friends and shared with them her happiness.

The Curvy Mountain Road of eldercare

“Caregiving requires the intention of love, caretaking requires the intention of fear. Not acting in anger when you are angry requires the intention of love”. — Gary Zukav

While humour can sometimes help tame the frustration of doing eldercare, navigating day-to-day issues requires the caregiver to be mentally strong. Caregivers’ mental and physical well-being also needs to be in good shape to manage emergencies and daycare.

It is tough to navigate this journey as you balance all emotions and remind yourself that you are caring for your parents. The tables have turned, and they need you now. You are crying from within, but you have to endure the day and continue working and putting up a smile.

It is difficult to watch your ageing parents decline day by day, but it is an ordeal we have to face.

When you become a caregiver, you are not just managing their health issues, but you have to also look into and manage their safety, finances, and other assets. If they have had an active social life, you have to manage all relationships and keep friends and family updated and posted about the elders.

As a caregiver, you have to maintain your sanity. You should know when to stop telling them anything complex. They can sometimes be curt and adamant, but you have to bandage your wounds and keep doing your work. They can insist on you do things their way. They would make you hear for the 100th time how things worked for them and why you should follow them. Sometimes you end up feeling that you have not grown up for them. So, you decide to keep quiet and carry on even though you feel frustrated.

Making them feel relevant is very important. Respect and honour them. When my friends came and celebrated Mom’s birthday and sang for her, she was thrilled beyond words.

Maintaining sanity while being a caregiver.

Caregiving for a parent is a rewarding experience. It comes with its share of stress and anxiety. The pressures can be overwhelming, and if you have a full-time job to manage, it becomes even more stressful. Fortunately, I do not have a full-time job, but I have devised methods to keep my sanity. You cannot do everything all by yourself. You have to take the support of friends, neighbours and other family members who can help you in any crisis.

To maintain your sanity, you have to carve out time for activities that you enjoy doing. I enjoy reading and writing. I, therefore, find time to curl up with a book at least for an hour during the day or fulfill my desire to write. I also go for long walks as it helps me relieve stress and control my frustrations.

Sometimes, I feel guilty that I cannot spend enough time with my mom, but I remind myself that I am not superhuman. I cannot control everything, and I am doing my best to balance the situation.

From my personal experience of being a caregiver, first for my father and now for my mother, ten years later, I have learned the following.

  1. Carve out time for yourself and ensure that you spend time pursuing your hobbies and things that you like to do. Invest time in maintaining your health and following your exercise routine to stay fit and sane. If you neglect your health, you may not be able to fulfill your caretaking responsibilities. My husband has been my accountability partner in reminding me to do my yoga and find time to relax.
  2. If you are the caretaker for your parents, you have to ensure that they move in with you while they have the physical stamina and mental strength to handle change. My mother moved in with us when my father passed away. In the last ten years, she has become comfortable in the new surroundings, made new friends, and settled into a new routine.
  3. Keep complete documentation of your parent’s assets, liabilities, and commitments. Their pension accounts, health insurance, and other banking details should also be documented and shared with the siblings.
  4. Take the support of siblings, relatives, friends, and neighbours as you will need help during medical emergencies.
  5. Journal your thoughts every day as it helps to manage your emotions and vent your frustrations.

Old age is a harsh truth of life, one that is considered the second childhood of a person.

“The day the roles reverse is foreign. It’s a clumsy dance of love and responsibility, not wanting to cross any lines of respect. It’s honouring this person who gave their life to you — not to mention literally gave you life — and taking their fragile body in your hands like a newborn, tending to their every need.” ― Lisa Goich-Andreadis.

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