How to Survive Caring for Multiple Elders at the Same Time
Each of our aging parents is unique. Some people age so well that they need little help until they are well into their eighties, while others need hands-on care as early as their fifties or sixties. Adult children are often faced with the task of caring for both parents, and those who are married must contend with their in-laws’ declining health as well. Caring for more than one person brings added stress over how a caregiver should divide their time. It’s typically a case of caregiver burnout waiting to happen.
When Caregivers Are Pulled in Too Many Directions
Every caregiver is familiar with the constant nagging feeling that something or someone in their life is being shortchanged. Whether it’s the person you’re caring for, your children, your significant other, your career, your friends and hobbies, your household, or yourself, there never seems to be enough time or energy to go around.
Time management is never simple for family caregivers, but for those who are looking after multiple elders, the added complexities can make your head spin. What happens if your husband needs a new prescription filled ASAP but your father who lives in the next town over has a doctor’s appointment you promised to drive him to? Who takes precedence?
A while back, a member of the AgingCare Caregiver Forum posted a question about feeling torn while caring for two elders. She worried that she was neglecting her relationship with her aging mother because of the overwhelming needs of her ailing mother-in-law. I encouraged the caregiver to hire some in-home care on a regular basis for her mother-in-law so that she could enjoy some time alone with her own mom. Just because her mom isn’t sick (yet) doesn’t mean their remaining time together isn’t precious.
An even more common situation, however, is when caregivers are responsible for looking after two or more elders who are ill and live in varying locations, sometimes over long distances. It’s a circumstance that I know well. During my busiest eldercare years, I was the primary caregiver for five seniors in three different living situations. I constantly struggled to divide my time compassionately and efficiently while still meeting all their needs and being a good mother to my two young boys. To help myself stay on top of all my responsibilities without burning out, I had to do some soul-searching. I produced the following rules to guide me through that trying time.
Tips for Caring for More Than One Person: Learn to differentiate between a loved one who has the most pressing needs and a loved one who would simply appreciate more companionship or attention. Seniors often “create” more tasks for caregivers to attend to when all they really want is for someone to stop by and visit with them. Understanding the…
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