Caring for a sick and elderly relative can be tough, particularly if they are dealing with a terminal illness. It’s physically tough and emotionally draining to say the least, which is why it is so important that you do all you can to look after yourself and maintain your own sanity during what is likely to be the toughest time of your life.
Here are quick some tips to help you stay sane when you’re caring for an elderly relative:
Accept the Situation
One of the best things you can do for your own mental health is to accept and come to terms with the situation you find yourself in. Your parent used to look after you and your children, and now you are required to look after them. It isn’t going to be easy, but coming to a place of acceptance will stop it being too difficult.
Don’t Do It Alone
Whether you enlist other members of the family or you hire a palliative nurse to help you put at least some of the time, you don’t have to care for your relative alone and nor, should you. Caring for a terminally ill person is a 24 hour seven days a week job, and you’ll burn out in week one if you don’t ask for and accept help. If you want to do the bulk of the caring, that’s fine, and it’s certainly commendable, but schedule some time every day just for yourself, where you can take a break and look after your own needs.
Don’t Take Things Personally
When you’re caring for an elderly family member, there is a good chance that they will become frustrated or even angry with you as you try to help them. They may be too proud to receive help, no matter how much they need it, or they may be suffering from an illness like Alzheimer’s which could change their personality completely. You have to try not to takes their outburst personally. They don’t mean it; they love you. Unfortunately, they’re just scared, embarrassed and confused and it is causing them to act out. Bear this in mind, and it will help you from crumbling under the pressure when they say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Give Them Autonomy
As much as you are able and is appropriate, you should give your elderly relative their autonomy. Don’t demand that they do something, ask them or gently coax them when you really need them to take their medication or get in the shower. You might be looking after them, but they are adults, and you’re likely to cause friction and frustration on both sides if you treat them like children.
Talk to Someone
Watching someone, you love decline and waste away before your eyes are one of the most emotionally draining experiences any human will ever have to face, but you don’t have to face it alone. If you’re finding it difficult, talk about your feelings to a close friend, a trusted family member or even a therapist. Working through your thoughts and feelings with another person can help you to calm down, see things more clearly and feel less of a burden.
Above all else, please just take care of yourself in any way you can.