If you find yourself looking after your elderly parent alone, whether that be because they no longer have their partner, or they don't have any other company, it can be very hard at times. And although you may never want to admit that that's true - it's okay. You can. So many people are in the same situation and feel as though they are unable to think these things because it's their parent and it's the least they can do, and that may be true, but it doesn't mean you have to pretend that it's easy.
You love your parent, and you will always be there to help them any way you can, just like they done for you when you were younger. And that's why you may feel as if it's your duty to provide for them. Now, what you choose to do is entirely up to you, but it's important that you're aware of the kind of toll that it can take on you to do so.
With age comes a lot of other issues - they're not always the same, but the most common problems tend to be Alzheimer's and Dementia. These are both illnesses that take over the mind as they cause people to lose their memory. As well as that, most elderly people tend to have trouble getting around too because their bodies aren't what they used to be, and that will be down to Arthritis and other similar issues.
Because of this, you will be expected to not only do things around the house, like cook and clean, but you may even have to help bathe them as they might not be able to do it themselves anymore. And while you're having to look after them physically, you will also have to learn how to deal with the possible memory loss.
This is never an easy thing to witness, as essentially you're standing in front of the person you love, who brought you up in this world, and now they can no longer remember who you are. It's heartbreaking, truly, but you mustn't blame them, or get angry, because they just can't help it. The part of the brain that they use to store memories and experiences are fading away, and unfortunately, there's nothing that you can do to stop this.
Now imagine all of this on a daily basis. As much as you may not want to phrase it like this - it's a fulltime job. There's no way that you will be able to go out and work nine to five, it just isn't safe to leave them without any company or care, anything could happen.
So whatever career you may have now, you will need to put it all on hold because you won't be able to manage juggling the two things, it's just not possible. You can expect to feel exhausted and drained, both mentally and physically, because essentially you never have a break.
From the moment your morning starts until the moment it finishes, you are required to care for them. - Make sure they've had the necessary medication they need. Make sure they've had a wash and are clean. Make sure that they can manage to go to the bathroom.
Make sure they have eaten breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, which will all be prepared by you. And one very important one, is to make sure they have the company and stimulation they need. Just because they may be older now and not able to communicate or engage like they once did, doesn't mean that you should give up trying.
Read, sing, listen to music, watch something interesting on tv, play a board game. These are all good ways that they benefit from by stimulating the mind so that it doesn't stop trying altogether. The less you do, the lazier your mind becomes and so it tunes out of its surroundings because it isn't needed anymore, and this is what you want to try and prevent from happening.
Your own health
One very important thing that you need to always keep in mind, is your own health. It's very easy to forget about this because you're so focused on helping someone else that it's the last thing on your mind, but never overlook it. Even though you may be telling yourself you're fine, that doesn't always mean that it's true.
You will be run down, and your body may start to ache because of this, and your mental health may also be greatly impacted. Your life will have changed, and you're now essentially a fulltime carer for your own parent, and that is something that is never simple to get your head around.
So if you feel as though you're beginning to come away at the seams - talk to someone. While it's always nice to confide in a friend about your problems, they may not always be the best givers of advice, and in this kind of circumstance, you should really be seeing a doctor. It's important that you give yourself the opportunity to talk to a medically trained professional so you get the advice that you need from someone who knows best.
If you realize that you don't think you're able to go at it alone anymore, there is nothing wrong with that. A lot of you may feel as though you're giving up, or failing, or not being a good person for doing this - but that's absurd, and it's important that you know that.
Asking for help doesn't make you any less of a person, or make you appear as if you don't care. - Asking for help is because you see that it's the best way of giving your parent the care that they need, as sometimes you just aren't able to do it all. If you still feel upset about the idea, ask yourself one question.
If your parent realized all the things you are going through in order to be their sole carer, do you think that they would really want you to make such a sacrifice? Of course they wouldn't. Regardless of how they are now, you are still their baby, and always will be, and that means that they only want the best for you in life. So if the best is to find some help because you're having a really tough time doing things alone - so be it.
There are quite a few options that you have in terms of help available. It all really depends on what you think is best, and what your parent would like (if they're still able to make decisions like that.) If your parent is still well aware of what's going on, then you should always ask them what they want - never just make a decision because you think that it's the right one.
Talk it through first, as they still have their own pride about them. Just because they may not be able to walk up the stairs anymore without aid, doesn't mean that they don't get a say in their future. So have discussions and see what they would like to do. It's good to try and have this kind of conversation early on while they are still able to give you their opinions on the matter.
Live in carer
If your parent is adamant that they want to stay in their own home, then you can still allow this without having to worry about them. There are tons of agencies out there that have a wonderful selection of carers who can either pop round every day to do daily duties, or live there permanently if they need constant supervision.
This works well as it drastically takes the pressure off you, but you can still go over and help out whenever you feel like it. One of the most important things before deciding on your carer, is to make sure that your parent gets on with them. The last thing you want is someone living there that isn't that welcomed, so ensure there is a connection between the carer and your parent so you know that there will be conversation and general good company.
You may want to have your parent stay somewhere like the seasons assisted living. This is brilliant because they not only have around the clock care from the best-trained professionals available, but they still have their own independence without feeling as if they've been dumped in a prison, as that is always a worry for families.
They never want to make anyone feel like that. It's all about being comfortable, yet cared for. There are even activities to get up to to keep everyone occupied, so you never have to worry about your parent being bored or alone because there is always someone to talk to, be it the other residents, or the staff members. And you can, of course, visit anytime to check in and make sure they're happy.