Give Yourself a Hall Pass

Having the responsibility of care for an aging parent or relative is hard work. It’s not just the “work” but the emotional toll that it takes is hard as well.

The responsibility of eldercare cuts into time with your spouse, time at work, hobby time and – especially with the Sandwich Generation – time with your kids. But, most often, where it really takes a toll is time for yourself.

You need to take time for yourself. It helps keep your mind, your feelings and your attitude refreshed.

But how do you squeeze out time for you?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Be organized.   Use organizational tools to group together time commitments, regular outings, doctor appointments, etc. For example, make doctor and therapy appointments on the same day. Order medications all at once. Pay bills with autopay or group due dates together so that only one bill pay session is necessary. Visit at the same time every week or two weeks – ask your elder to make a list of items for you to do on that day (rather than call you every time they think of something for you to do). If needed, get them a “TO DO” pad.
  • Add something fun to the mix. After the doctor appointments, take your elder out for lunch, to see a movie, for a shopping trip to the mall or go to the library. Do something that YOU like to do, not just something that that elder would like. This brings the stress level down from the “routine” eldercare.
  • Share the care. Sit down with family members and spread out the tasks. Even siblings who live distantly can help – they can pay bills, coordinate care, make appointments, etc. When they come to town, they can run some of the routine errands too. Something simple like having a week off with no eldercare can refresh the caregivers.
  • Get help. Contract with a lawn maintenance service, get a house cleaner, hire a sitter for your elder during the day, find an automated medication dispenser. There are ways to spread the work among helpers that can be reasonable in cost and, yet, dramatic in the time it frees up for you.
  • Delay the work. Make sure your parent knows that you will help with tasks, chores and errands – but you will help at a certain time or on a preset day. Being available all the time for random requests is stressful and a time waster.
  • Reward yourself. Find some way to reward yourself when your cup is overflowing with eldercare and life’s other responsibilities. Take a walk around the lake, go to the gym, run with the dog, get a pedicure, watch your favorite tv show, or just sit and breathe.

This is hard work and you deserve your recharge time. Only you can make it happen. You will be a better caretaker/caregiver when you have made time to take care of yourself. Now, I’m off to play a game of solitaire…

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