This is a guest post by Dr. David Tal
It can be difficult to watch a parent or loved one as they age or deal with issues like Alzheimer's disease. Certain levels of care must be provided, which can take an emotional toll on caregivers.
There is nothing more difficult than losing someone you love. However, it can be equally difficult to care for your loved ones as they age. This process is often emotionally and physically demanding. For instance, you may wind up shouldering the day-to-day responsibilities related to their care or may need to take on certain financial obligations. Add that to the grief, loss, guilt, along with a raft of other emotions and it becomes crystal clear: caring for an aging parent or loved one is not an easy task.
In order to provide the best care possible - and to take care of your own emotional well being - it is important to be prepared. To begin with, let's tackle the issue of caring for the physical needs of your loved one. As men and women age, they typically require more assistance. This includes additional help with every day activities like grooming, cooking, and shopping. In the early stages of the aging process, there are many ways that you can help out. Simple things like dropping in every day or two for a visit, bringing bags of groceries, or making a quick phone call will be appreciated. Taking care of a few small responsibilities can make a big difference in their lives.
Once the aging process has become more serious, you may need to look into more regular care. The same is true if your loved one is suffering from age related dementia or a brain disease, like Alzheimer's. Always use your judgement. If you notice any changes in their behaviour, mood, or levels of independence, speak to their doctor or another medical professionals immediately. They can help you determine the best course of action. That may be having you checking in on your loved one more regularly, a day nurse, or even living in a care facility. It is important to assess the situation carefully and discuss their needs with a professional you trust.
Now that the basics of caring for an aging loved one have been taken care of, it is time to focus on learning to cope. Most of us don't deal well with death. When the people we care about most become dependants, it is often difficult to accept the reality of the situation. That is why so many caregivers attempt to take on the daily responsibilities all on their own. They don't want help because they don't want to accept that things have changed or may have gotten worse.
Instead of living in denial, create a support system early on. That may include neighbours, siblings, other family members, friends, or even medical professionals. There are many ways they can help. It could be by sharing their own experiences with aging loved ones or death, being there to talk to, or by pitching in with every day care. Think of it this way: the more people you have in your corner, the easier it will be for you when your loved one requires more care. You don't have to do it all by yourself!
Instead of living in denial, create a support system early on.
Dealing with an aging parent or loved one is difficult. It challenges you on every possible level. By learning to provide proper physical care - and by understanding how to cope with the emotional weight of the situation, you can positively affect the lives of both yourself and your loved ones. So, cherish your time together... and make each second count.
About the Author: Dr. David Tal has more than twenty years of clinical experience. He manages the Age Matters Clinic in Toronto, Canada.
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