The first thing you should know about caregiver guilt, is that it's normal. You are not alone, millions of families, spouses, and adult children across the country have had or felt the same feelings you may be feeling as a family caregiver. It is essential that you take care of yourself as a family caregiver for a loved one. Like they in air travel, if anything goes wrong with the plane, "put the mask over yourself first, before helping others." You cannot effectively or thoughtfully care for a loved one if you're not taking care of yourself first. Caring for an older adult requires dealing with a depth of emotions that may be new or seem not normal. You may be an emotional roller coaster and need to recognize or resolve these issues that present themselves.
The Role of the Caregiver
Caregivers are not only the spouses that live with their loved one and provide day-to-day support, they are also adult children, nieces, friends, and neighbors. They assist with a range of supportive services and activities of daily living for their loved one such as grocery shopping, doctor appointments, finances, meal prep and cooking, yard work, house maintenance, personal cares and many more things.
What to Do First?
The first step is to recognize and acknowledge your feelings. Stress and guilt are very common feelings as a family caregiver, especially as a spouse. You may need to give yourself permission and recognize that the best way you can care for your loved one, is to get them the care that they need and that you may no longer be able to provide. Other family issues that invoke stress may include boundary setting, sibling disagreements, money, healthcare issues, loss and grief, or making a move into a senior care community. These are all normal. Hire or talk to a trusted professional if needed, to navigate your feelings, especially if it's impacting the quality of life that your loved one may be currently living.
What is Important?
The next step would to have conversations with key decision makers, including the individual receiving care to acknowledge their feelings and also find out what is important to them. If you have messy family dynamics, there are resources to help. At Vista Prairie, we have advisors that can help sort out what's important to every one and map out a solution. There are also many state and local resources that provide information on this. Be sure to exhaust the "what is important" list by asking, "what else?" and getting granular about those specifics of what's important to them. This can help you as you navigate options and weigh pros and cons of each solution.
Don't Wait for a Crisis
Don't wait for a crisis to begin planning and having conversations. Waiting for a crisis to plan for senior care options outside of the care that you're providing is simply not a good idea. It limits your ability to maintain your independence in whatever setting you may live in, limits your options as you'll be deciding quickly, and no one makes good decisions or thoughtfully researched options in crisis moments. Additionally, we'd like to add that senior living is not what it used to be. There is a lot of life, love, fun, and happiness that happens at our community. For instance, our new Aspire - Life on Purpose™ lifestyle helps residents create connections, discover new things, keep active, and ultimately have belonging and purpose in our community.
Come live life with us, on purpose. At Vista Prairie Communities, you're family!