5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming Your Senior Parent’s Primary Caregiver

If you are the adult child of a senior parent in need of caregiving support and assistance, you may be on the verge of taking on the caregiver task. Becoming a caregiver for a senior parent needing some assistance is admirable. However, you cannot take on that task without considering how serving as a caregiver will impact your own life and whether you can meet your aging mother’s or father’s needs. In this regard, there are five questions you need to ask yourself before becoming your senior parent’s primary caretaker:

  • Do you have children?
  • Do you have a supportive spouse?
  • How do you plan to make time for yourself?
  • Where will you draw the line as a caregiver?
  • How do you plan to maintain your health and wellness?

Do You Have Children?

You need to be fully aware of the amount of time you will likely need to provide caregiving assistance to your senior parent. Most caregivers in the United States are adult children or spouses of seniors who need assistance. Statistical data reveals that a caregiver assisting a senior parent will spend approximately 21 hours weekly on those duties. If a parent needs more assistance, that hourly time estimate naturally increases.

If you have children, you must contemplate how caregiving for an aging parent will impact your relationships with your own family, including your children. If you are like many caregivers, you very well may have a full-time job. Caregiving for your aging parent is akin to adding at least a part-time job, if not nearly a full-time one, to your schedule.

Do You Have a Supportive Spouse?

If you are married, you need to honestly assess how supportive your spouse will be of your providing caregiving assistance to your aging parent. Making this assessment is not intended to imply that your spouse is somehow a selfish or unkind person. Rather, your intention to provide primary caregiving assistance to your senior parent definitely will impact your spouse (or other significant other) and perhaps significantly so.

We’ve already discussed the time you likely will dedicate to assisting your parent as his or her primary caregiver. Less time away from your own home increases responsibilities on that front for your spouse, particularly if you have children.

You also must fully appreciate that caregiving can be emotionally and physically challenging. Your spouse will be a supportive resource for you as you work through the challenges and frustrations that will exist when you are the primary caregiver for your senior parent.

How Do You Plan to Make Time for Yourself?

Building upon the reality that caregiving is an emotionally and physically challenging process, you need to ask yourself how you will make time for yourself as a primary caregiver before you begin assisting your parent. Indeed, it would be best if you planned how you would have time for yourself when serving as a caregiver. That plan needs to be detailed and involves more than just carving out time for you to take a break from your caregiving efforts.

When it comes to developing a plan related to making time for other things in your life beyond caregiving, you need to consider the following:

  • Your spouse, children, and other family members
  • Your friends
  • Your employment
  • Your physical wellness
  • Your emotional wellbeing

Where Will You Draw the Line as a Caregiver?

As a caregiver, there are some things you can and cannot do. You can provide physical and emotional support to your loved one, but you cannot replace the doctor’s care. You can offer assistance with various tasks of daily living, like help with grooming, meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation, etc. With that said, there may be some tasks that you do not feel as capable of doing for your parent. (For example, some adult children decide they cannot help with toileting issues. If that is the case, consideration needs to be made for some other form of caregiving assistance for a parent who ultimately ends up needing this type of assistance at some point in time down the road.)

You can offer words of encouragement, but you cannot make them better. There are limits to what you can do, and it is important to know what they are. Establishing boundaries for yourself can ensure that you provide the best care for your loved one.

How Do You Plan to Maintain Your Health and Wellness?

A moment ago, we mentioned maintaining your health and wellness while you are the primary caregiver for an aging parent. As the primary caregiver for your senior parent, it is also important to take care of yourself. You must make time for your health and wellbeing, even when you are busy caring for others. There are some tactics and tips to consider maintaining your health and wellness while caregiving for your parent:

  • Make time for yourself (as mentioned previously and warrants stressing again). It can be tough to find time for yourself when you’re busy with work and family responsibilities, but it’s important to make time for yourself. Schedule time each week to do something you enjoy, whether reading, walking, or watching your favorite TV show.
  • Eat healthy foods. Eating a healthy diet is important, so you have the energy to take care of others. Make sure you include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet and try to limit processed foods and sugary drinks.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is another important component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can help keep you energized and improve your mood. It also has many other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Get enough sleep. Most people need around eight hours of sleep per night, but it cannot be easy to get enough sleep when you’re busy. Try to make sleep a priority and go to bed simultaneously each night. Avoid using electronics in bed and establish a relaxing bedtime routine.

By asking these questions and honestly answering these questions, you will place yourself in the best position to understand if you are ready and can take on the tasks associated with caregiving for a senior parent at this time. Your expectations about what is involved in caregiving for an aging parent will be more realistic.