Baby boomers as caregivers: today due to the fact that they have parents that are living longer and healthier lives. Advancements in medicine and technology have extended the life expectancy. The social impact of longevity is that as we age and get our own children out of the house and on to college, we find ourselves looking after our parents. Some boomers are balancing children at home and are caregivers of aging parents. This group is also called the sandwich generation.
Baby Boomers as caregivers have many challenges to face. Here are a few tips to overcome those challenges:
- Put a plan in place establishing responsibilities and accountability for tasks that need to be done. Get the baby boomer siblings involved in some way. Start to communicate and continue to communicate at every possible opportunity.
- Make it a priority to see your aging loved one in their home environment regularly. Assess the home environment and observe things that may indicate something is wrong.
- Get organized and get prepared in case of a crisis.
More tips below
- Establish an open line of communication with your parent. Help them to identify issues that are important to them. (This is not an easy task and is constantly changing.)
- Establish a list of your concerns. The goal is to try to accomplish a consensus. Address each individual issue with your parent’s involvement. Be aware that they may change their minds multiple times before you get the results you are looking for in changes in their behaviors, nutritional status etc.
- Discuss and address short term goals and solutions to those goals. Give a time frame and suggestions to meet those goals. (example taking a nutritional supplement drink between meals for weight gain.)
- Discuss long term goals. Address what is expected in a medical crisis, such as a broken hip.
- If aging is place is a goal, evaluate community programs. Prioritize services that are available and need to be utilized now and services that will be needed in the future.
- Assess the home for safety and make changes to meet the needs of your parents.
- Pick and choose the topics that are worth dealing with one at a time. Many topics will be met with resistance. If the topic is not of an urgent nature, put it on the back burner for a later time. It is important to understand that these topics and situations can be life altering for your parents.
- Baby boomers as caregivers need to take time to learn your aging parent’s fears. Emotions are very powerful and reactions are not always logical. Utilizing a neutral third party that your parents know and trust may help put things on and even keel. Another option is utilizing the services of a care manager, eldercare consultant or an eldercare facilitator. It may sometimes be easier to discuss topics with someone you have no past history. Fear of loss of independence, denial of aging, becoming a burden, fear of being alone, fear of being placed in an institutional setting are all fears that many aging adults will express in one way or another.
- Emphasize you are there to help your aging loved one, not to take control over their lives. You are there to support and assure their safety as they age.
- Hold regular family meetings with aging parent, caregivers and outside health care providers. If some family members cannot be there physically, make it possible to be there by phone. Make and set rules for these family meetings. Set goals for the meeting, agree this is what is best for the aging parents and put family issues and relationships aside for the good of your parents. Most of all, allow your parents to have a say in what they feel is important to them.
- Resolve to work on one issue at a time during the family meetings. For every issue addressed, your aging parent has a fear they are going to lose something. Plan ahead to offer solutions that will take care of transportation, social events, doctors appointments etc.
- As an aging baby boomer and caregiver, you must also take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to have a volunteer or paid companion stay when appropriate, and go out to exercise, socialize or just enjoy some time away from the daily grind of care giving.
- In the beginning of your journey into care giving, baby boomers must set boundaries, limits and expectations that your aging loved one should understand. Some of our aging parents will constantly interrupt your day. Start early and give times when it is acceptable to call, unless it is an emergency. You do have a right to your own life. It is a fact that caregivers who take time for themselves are healthier and happier individuals. It leads to facing another day of care giving knowing you do have a life outside of caring for your parents.
- Remember, if your parents are not cognitively impaired, they are considered adults. If you believe they are not making good choices, there are times you will have to walk away and let go. You cannot make someone do something they do not want to do. Just try again another day.
- Never take anything personally. Change is hard and when it is motivated by fear of loss of control over your own life, emotions run high. Continue to communicate and let them know you are there for them when they are ready to make safe decisions. Parents have a way of knowing how to do and say things to get a certain reaction out of you. Be aware of your “hot spots” and remain focused of what you are trying to accomplish. It may take some changes in your behaviors to assist your parents in reaching a goal of safety and wellness for them.
These boomers must not give up. Keep those lines of communications open. No matter how hard it may be. Baby boomers as caregivers may be the answer to helping your loved one age in place.