Being A Caregiver for Aging Parents Without Freaking Out
Who predicted that being a caregiver for aging parents would become your responsibility? No one asked you to be a caregiver. Instead, the job appeared unexpectedly in the middle of the night when your aging parent became ill.
Now you’re freaking out. Life as you know it is over.
Being a caregiver is new for you. You don’t know anything about what it takes to be a caregiver without freaking out.
Melting Down and Freaking Out
Caregiving responsibilities weigh on your mind. You have nightmares about things that you were supposed to do—and you can’t remember if you did any of them.
Melting down and freaking out are common in caregiving when you feel in over your head. There is so much to do and rarely enough time.
Trying to work, go to school, raise children, be a wife or husband and care for aging parents or spouses can push caregivers to the edge of hopelessness.
You may be spending time caregiving during the day, evenings, and weekends. These are the more challenging situations when it seems there is no escape from caregiving responsibilities.
Many caregivers throw up their hands in frustration, feeling that they can’t do anything right. Others lack the experience to know how to make situations better.
Being a caregiver without freaking out is more difficult when care recipients refuse to participate in actions to improve caregiving situations. You may wonder, why can’t everyone get along?
Don’t Feel Embarrassed
One of the first recommendations to manage being a caregiver without freaking out is to accept your feelings and not feel embarrassed. Even though you’d never know it, millions of family members are in similar situations because being a caregiver isn’t something society talks about very much.
Caregiving is viewed as a family responsibility. The puzzle is that no one in the family talks about caregiving as a responsibility. It’s a role in life that seems to go ignored until it becomes a problem.
But isn’t that how life is? Until something becomes a problem, we never think to consider or plan for the possibility—even though being a caregiver or needing care is something everyone will face. It’s an inescapable fact of life.
Caregiving Eventually Touches Every Life
We may hear about Medicare and healthcare spending problems daily in the news. These are political and government issues that never seem to be solved.
But until caregiving or needing care personally affects us, the problems and issues others face are not relevant. For these reasons—every caregiver, new caregivers, and experienced caregivers have days that feel out of control. It is impossible to know everything that a caregiver should know.
Improving Your Caregiving Skills
If you are a professional caregiver like a CNA or a nurse, you know more than most family caregivers because you may have attended courses and training. Professional caregivers know the value of this training and how additional education improves their caregiving skills.
Training means that professional caregivers may have more knowledge—yet there is always something to learn. I know nurses who struggle to navigate care issues outside of the hospital system or nursing home where they work.
Along these lines, while doctors treat elderly patients, few are equipped to advise about in-home care, assisted living, or other plans that should be made. Even more surprising is the reliance of general practitioners to diagnose or speak to patients about memory loss that could relate to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
As you can see, caregivers can continue to gain skills by being curious to learn how to respond to the different needs of each family situation. Healthcare providers are only as helpful as to their specialties.
Because the responsibility of family caregivers is so much broader, caregivers have to take an interest in medicine, financial planning for costs of care, legal aspects related to care, and navigating all of the different healthcare systems and providers. As if managing what we believe is everyday life is challenging, It’s no wonder that being a caregiver without freaking out can push the most competent person over the edge.
Being Curious Helps Manage the Unexpected
Family caregivers tend to believe they can do it all and don’t need any help. That is until they mentally or physically break down. Based on this realization, one might wonder why caregivers and the persons they care for are so stubborn.
People, in general, are resistant to asking for help. Caregivers, professional or family, are no different. Based on more than twenty years of experience, one of my mottos is that “it’s the questions you don’t ask that result in the most trouble.” Years of my training care staff to care for and manage care for the elderly proved this statement to be accurate.
Everyone has questions. How often have you attended an event or presentation, and the presenter asks if anyone has questions? You have a question but don’t raise your hand.
The person sitting next to you and the person behind you also have questions. Maybe even the same question. No one raises a hand. No one asks a question. The question goes unanswered.
No one wants to raise their hand because asking questions is viewed negatively. What if someone thinks I’m stupid or don’t know what I’m doing?
The less afraid you become about asking questions, the more successful you will be. Successful people ask questions—many questions, and they’re not afraid to ask for help or seek out experts. Admitting what you don’t know is a strength.
Tips to Manage Freak Outs and Meltdowns
The answer to solving freakouts and meltdowns is to get help. Today it’s easier than you think to attend a support group or take a caregiving class online.
The old way of learning or joining a support group was to drive to a physical location. Going to physical locations to attend support groups and courses is in the past.
This doesn’t mean that there is no value in getting together in person with others. Instead, it means that because the caregiver’s time is so limited, you can get the help you need in a lot less time.
Because caregivers are stretched for time, freaking out and melting down, accessing support must be accessible and easy. While searching the Internet can make you go down a rabbit hole for hours, it’s a blessing to find the right resources the first time.
Next Steps for Being a Caregiver Without Freaking Out
Before your caregiving situation worsens, becomes a crisis, and becomes a disaster, take the next step to seek education and knowledge. Don’t be the person who says, “I should have joined that group, or I should have joined that class.”
Be the person who says, “I’m so glad I joined and took that class.” Be a person of action. Be proactive and become more informed to avoid meltdowns and freakouts. Learn to become comfortable making decisions, managing, caring, and advocating.
Everyone can’t know everything. Life teaches us that lesson. The more we think we know, the less we realize we truly know.
Be consistently curious. Be open-minded. When your mind stops you by saying no to help or think you can’t do that, put the breaks on your thoughts. Avoid negativity. Instead, think positively and create a game plan for being a caregiver without freaking out.
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