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Becoming a carer: Five tips for looking after your parents





Life tends to come full circle and while we spend the early years being looked after, towards the end of our life it’s very much the same. In fact, while our childhood and teens are spent being cared for by our parents, as they reach their latter years, it’s time for us to look after them.

Being a carer for loved ones can pose its challenges but ultimately be rewarding too, and it’s something that we ultimately may have to do, with conditions like dementia, mobility problems and general ageing all requiring support.

On the one hand, it’s possible to get them the care they need through dementia care services or residential elderly care, but on the other, you may want to take on that responsibility yourself.

Being a carer for loved ones can pose its challenges but ultimately be rewarding too. Picture: iStock
Being a carer for loved ones can pose its challenges but ultimately be rewarding too. Picture: iStock

In the case of the latter, there is a lot to consider and you need to go into it fully prepared and with the knowledge of what you’re doing in order to ensure the care of your loved one, and indeed yourself. So, if that’s the plan, here are five top tips to help you pull it off…

Educate yourself about their condition

Naturally, the start point is to educate yourself on any conditions and problems they are going through. Understand what the condition does to a person, the symptoms, treatment options and how it can affect their daily lives.

You still want to encourage independence as much as possible, as this is important for a person’s mental health, but knowing where they need help is so important in providing the care they need. There are many health professionals, support groups, websites and other online resources that can help with this.

Communicate openly and honestly

Parents can be proud, so communicating openly and building a strong, supportive relationship with loved ones is important.

Take the time out to have open and honest conversations about their condition, what concerns they have and listen actively to what they have to say. This will encourage them to express themselves freely with you and allow you to work together to find the best solutions for their care.

Establish a routine and plan ahead

Routine is such an important part of a person’s day when being cared for as it provides structure and helps reduce anxiety, particularly for those who are living with dementia.

Establish daily and weekly schedules that outline various tasks, activities and appointments they may have, while you should try to stick to set meal times. This can reduce confusion significantly, as well as give them things to look forward to each week, keeping morale high.

What’s more, you should plan ahead for any emergencies or challenges that may arise and be prepared to adapt routines as conditions potentially worsen.

Take care of yourself

Actually, what is really important is to look after yourself too. We can become so focused on caregiving as caregivers, but actually you need to prioritise self-care too. That means looking after your own physical, emotional and mental well-being as well as managing and maintaining relationships.

You need to take the time out to spend time with partners and loved ones, as well as enjoy the activities and hobbies you like. Set yourself boundaries and periods of time in which you can do that, and don’t be ashamed to reach out for help should you need it or if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Seek support and assistance

In fact, it’s more than ok to ask for help when you need it. Reach out to other family members, friends, or neighbours who may be able to provide support or respite care.

What’s more, there are professional caregivers that can come in on set days of the week to provide help, as well as with household chores and the like. Alternatively, it is possible to send your loved ones to a care centre, whether it be for a day or a short period of time for you to take a break.

A good idea can be to join a support group for caregivers, where you’ll be able to discuss challenges, gain advice and generally find empathy from people who are going through the exact same thing.



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