4 Challenging Situations as a Caretaker for a Parent

If you are contemplating taking on the role of caretaker for your parent, you need to undertake what might be called a frank course of due diligence. You need to consider some of the unique challenges associated with caretaking for an older adult and whether or not you really believe that you can serve as a caretaker for your aging parent.

Keep in mind that some of the challenges discussed in this article may not be issues today. However, over time, if you are your parent’s caregiver, these issues may come to the forefront. What this means is that you may find yourself reevaluating your role as a caregiver and your personal ability to provide the types of assistance your parent may end up requiring.

In discussing caregiving with adult children, you assist their aging parents, four particularly challenging situations have been identified that warrant reflection on your part as you consider taking on the role of caregiver for your mother or father:

  • Dealing with bathroom matters or toileting
  • Bathing your parent
  • Dining with dignity
  • Going out in public

Dealing With Bathroom Matters or Toileting

A relatively common problem among a significant number of older women and men is issues with going to the bathroom – or what oftentimes is called “toileting” in the realm of geriatric care. Toileting can prove to be particularly challenging for some adult children who are caregiving for an aging parent.

If you are the adult child of a parent who may be in need of assistance with activities of daily living, you need to understand what might be involved in that process. While your parent may not be in need of toileting assistance today, the day may come on when this type of aid is needed by a mother or father.

If you have concerns about having to assist a parent with toileting, if you feel you may not be up to that type of assistance, others have shared your thoughts and feelings. Something understandably seems abnormal about handling a parent’s most personal physical needs. It seems almost disrespectful to even think about aiding a mother or father in this manner.

There are other options available to you if you do not feel you can provide your mother or father who needs toileting assistance. For example, a home care aide might be an avenue you might want to consider pursuing. Assisted living might be another option as well.

You also need to understand that your parent may not want you to be the person to provide toileting assistance if they need this type of care. You may be willing and able to assist your mother or father in this manner, but you need to respect your parent’s feelings in regard to toileting. Even though your parent may be in need of assistance with activities of daily living, your parent deserves to have those services provided without having to sacrifice dignity in the process.

Bathing Your Parent

Some adult children have understandably similar reactions to assisting their aging parents with bathing. Conversely, some senior parents are not keen on the idea of their adult children providing them assistance with bathing.

As is the case with toileting, there are other care and assistance options available, including a homecare aide or assisted living. In addition, a notable number of adult children of aging parents do report that they become acclimated to assisting a mother or father with bathing. Indeed, they become accustomed to and capable of assisting with bathing more quickly than proves to be the case with toileting.

Dining With Dignity

As mentioned previously, dignity is something that must be borne in mind when assisting with activities of daily living for an aging parent. They have the right to have their dignity maintained and respected.

Some older women and men have medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease that can make eating challenging. For example, they may have issues getting food into their mouths or otherwise with using dining utensils. They may need assistance eating.

This raises the question of whether or not an older person can dine with dignity in a restaurant or even at some type of private affair (family event) outside of the older individual’s home. The dining with dignity matter is another of the challenges that can be faced by an adult child serving as the caregiver for an aging mother or father.

A number of geriatric care professionals have suggestions in regard to when, where, and how should an aging parent with issues that prevent easy eating can be brought into a public setting for a meal. The focus might be on how that now elderly parent did or would have addressed such issues with someone else when that parent was younger.

A caregiver may need time to get accustomed to a parent that needs assistance with eating. If an older parent enjoys dining out or attending family events despite needing assistance with eating, a caregiver needs to make the best effort to adapt to the idea of assisting that older individual with dining issues. If an adult child considering providing caregiving assistance to a parent who needs this type of support is uncomfortable providing that type of help, he or she might want to reconsider whether or not the role is a good fit.

Going Out in Public

Eating aside and taking loved ones with dementia or other illnesses that affect their public behavior out in public can be a tricky proposition. Going out in public in such circumstances presents considerations that impact both the older individual as well as the caregiver.

People with Alzheimer’s and other types of conditions do benefit from events that stimulate the artistic part of their brains. Therefore, art galleries and music events are often very beneficial for these individuals. Researchers have shown that some people with dementia, particularly in the earlier stages, can look at a painting and see the depth of the message of the art that is not seen by others who do not have this condition.

It is also important to bear in mind that some older individuals in the earlier stages of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, can feel anxious or even outwardly upset when taken out of their home (or best-known) environment. All of these types of considerations must be taken into account when a trip outside the home of an aging person with these types of conditions is contemplated.

A caregiver also needs to be cognizant of the possibility that issues surrounding embarrassment may be more about the caregiver and not the person being cared for at this time. In reality, most people do not particularly like the idea of being the focus of unwanted attention by others in a public setting.

The fact is that most people staring at us as we take our loved ones through a store or other public location are more curious than anything else. They may feel sorry for us. Many caregivers do not like the idea that others may be feeling sorry for them. Some caregivers also feel like they are being judged in something of a negative manner. Frankly, it is possible that some people may judge, largely because they are uninformed. In the end, both a caregiver and the person being cared for need to make a determination about what they do and do not want to do in a public setting.

Candidly considering these and other challenges before you make a decision to become a primary caregiver for your senior parent is crucial to protect the best interests of your mother or father and your own. In addition, as your parent advances in years and in needs, you need to continually and honestly assess what you think you reasonably are and are not capable of doing in regard to providing necessary caregiver assistance to your mother or father. There is no shame in recognizing either your abilities or your limitations in this arena.