As parents care for young children, it’s natural for children to then care for their parents as they age.
According to Kathleen Parrino, community liaison at Menorah Park; Michelle Roberts, Memory Care Network social worker at Montefiore; and Jason Welther, community development director at Windsor Heights, all in Beachwood, taking on the role as a parent’s primary caregiver is common.
“If a parent loses a spouse and a parent’s social circle gets smaller due to illness, death or friends relocating, a parent can become more isolated and dependent on their children,” Roberts said. “The children know their parents the best and are more tuned-in to their specific wants and needs. The child becomes the support for an elderly parent. People are living much longer, so caregiving becomes more important with the responsibility often falling on the children.”
Parrino added, “One reason would be children live in close geographical proximity to parents. Also, our parents raised us, took care of us and as our parents’ age, we would take care of them as well. It’s not necessarily a given, but it’s the natural progression of how life works.”
Welther said cost might be a reason.
“With the increasing costs of health care, both in the home and a facility, children are stepping up to care for their parents,” he stated. “Children will often move their loved ones in with them and use their income to cover care needs.”
When serving as a primary caregiver, responsibilities run the gamut. The professionals said these tasks could simply be running errands to managing finances, to providing personal care and up to high-level care needs.
“Being a caregiver is one of the toughest jobs,” Welther noted. “Your job is caring for one’s daily needs which in itself can be a challenge. But when you add extra needs and conditions, it can make that challenge even harder on both the caregiver and the patient.”
Roberts added, “This role is to be totally responsible for the care and well-being of a parent including the emotional side of caregiving.”
Even if a child is serving as a primary caregiver, it’s important to be aware of the available resources.
“There are support groups out there for caregivers like the Alzheimer’s Association, churches, area agencies on aging or local municipalities to find out about caregiver support groups and what services are available in their community,” Parrino explained. “The biggest thing is for children, and any caregiver, to seek out support and help. If someone offers help, take it and find out what is out there. This can be quite a daunting task for one person.”
Welther added, “(These support options) are designed not only to help families cope with being a caregiver, but also can teach them how to be better caregivers.”
The professionals added their organizations offer support options like most other senior facilities. At Montefiore, caregivers can take part in caregiver education and support groups. At Menorah Park, children can send their parents to activities at the adult day center. As for Windsor Heights, there are respite stays, to name a few.
With the responsibility of caregiving, it’s important to pace yourself.
“The impact of caregiver burden is so important to know about,” Roberts said. “There can be physical and emotional issues from the demands on caregivers. Isolation is a big risk as well as neglect of self-care when someone puts all their energies into taking care of a loved one. Caregivers need to take care of themselves.”
Welther said, “Know your limits. Reach out to other family members and friends to give yourself some downtime. It’s important to take care of yourself and get some rest.”
Parrino added, “Seek out help, educate yourself on what is available and take care of yourself. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, it is hard to take care of a loved one. Take breaks and make sure you’re able to do things that rejuvenate yourself. The stress of caregiving can eat away at people. Burnout happens frequently and a lot of people don’t realize it.”