Aging Parents, Discouraged Caregiver-Children

Helping Aging Parents:
How Often Do We Wonder If We Can Go On?

While trying to help parents age well we often find ourselves overworked, unappreciated, and physically exhausted. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a hole that’s too deep to climb out of. We question our efforts; we wonder if it’s worth it.

The statistics and information in Tuesday’s NY Times Science Section should, at the least, make caregiver children realize that what they do out of love, caring, or duty has enormous  value.

Focusing on health care costs for elderly people during their “last several years of life,”researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in NY (Mt. Sinai’s Geriatric Division is ranked #2 nationally by US News) found that long-term care expenses (nursing homes, assisted living) were the #1 out-of-pocket expense; home health care expenses were #2. How expensive the work of caregiver children is, should someone have to pay for it!

Out-of-pocket expenses are surprising no doubt because Medicare doesn’t take care of “almost everything,” according the findings.

Children who are caregivers are invaluable and economical. Do we remind ourselves of this often enough?  And do non-caregiver siblings give us the credit and support needed to lift our spirits or do they think we’re the Rock of Gibralter (an old fashion expression for supremely strong)? And/or do they take for granted that we function 100% all the time and never need help or at least acknowledgement of our efforts? And is it partly our fault because we’ve never let them know we’re vulnerable?

When we’re exhausted and discouraged to the point we don’t even have time for ourselves, don’t we owe it to ourselves and to our parents to get some support and relief…some help?

While the Beatles popularized “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends,” caregiving takes more than “a little help” from friends. When we’re chasing our tail so to speak, going round and round with our thoughts–trying to find ways to relieve the stress without success, we need fresh insight.

Fortunately it’s available from social workers, specializing in geriatrics, in a social services/family counseling agency. These specialists have the training and experience to offer understandings and generate new ideas for coping. We need him/her to be someone we’re comfortable with so don’t settle for someone who doesn’t feel right.

While the stresses are new for us, we need’t “reinvent the wheel” so to speak. An experienced social worker, who has counseled elderly people and caregiver children, can be supportive while providing the help we need…which may be a more efficient way of handling things or enlisting the day-to-day help of others so we have legitimate time for ourselves.

They say the more we invest ourselves in something, the more we get out of it. I guess we need to keep this in mind too.
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