As our parents get older and more dependent on us, it’s common for their needs to begin consuming our lives. This is especially true when an elderly parent requires extra care or assistance. Though it comes from a place of love, being a caregiver to an aging parent can become all-encompassing and draining over time.
If your elderly mother is consuming your life, there are constructive ways to restore more balance, protect your own wellbeing, and continue supporting her. With some planning, self-care, and support, you can achieve greater harmony even in a difficult situation.
Recognize Signs Her Needs Are Overwhelming You
The first step is noticing when things have become imbalanced. Signs your mother’s needs may be consuming too much include:
- You’ve given up activities and parts of life you enjoy
- You feel constant stress, resentment, or exhaustion
- You’ve isolated yourself from friends and family
- You have no time or energy left for self-care
- Work and home responsibilities are neglected
- Anxiety and guilt plague your thoughts
- You’ve lost your sense of identity
If several of these resonate, it’s time to make some changes before burnout sets in.
Communicate Your Experience Openly and Lovingly
Have an open discussion with your mother explaining that her increasing needs are overwhelming you lately. Assure her this comes from a place of love, and you want to avoid burnout so you can keep supporting her in sustainable ways.
Ask for her input on solutions so you can tackle this collaboratively. She likely doesn’t want to be a burden and may have ideas to lighten your load. Making a shared care plan you both feel good about will help preserve your bond.
Set Healthy Boundaries Around Your Involvement
Well-defined boundaries are essential when someone depends heavily on you. Consider which care tasks are reasonable for you to handle, and which are too much or should be done by a professional caregiver.
Be clear with your mother about what you can and can’t provide day-to-day and long-term. For example, you may commit to:
- Managing her medical appointments and finances
- Weekly grocery shopping and errands
- Daily phone calls and visits 2-3 times a week
- NOT being on-call 24/7 for non-urgent needs
Boundaries will look different for every family. The key is finding a level of involvement you can sustain without sacrificing self-care. And don’t feel guilty about saying no when you’ve hit your limit.
Look Into Professional Caregiving Services
You don’t have to do this alone. Consider professional caregivers who can support your mother with:
- In-home care: Help with meals, housekeeping, mobility, personal care, and companionship. You set the schedule.
- Adult day programs: Supervised care and activities for seniors during the day. Provides a break for you.
- Respite care: Short-term live-in care for your mother when you go out of town or need a break.
- Senior living communities: Independent or assisted living provides housing, activities, care, and security.
Even a few hours of professional care a week can make a big difference in balancing life again. And your mother may appreciate the socialization.
Create Regular Me-Time and Self-Care Rituals
With so much focus on your mother’s wellbeing, it’s vital to nurture your own too. Schedule regular me-time where you detach completely from caregiving to replenish yourself.
Self-care rituals might include:
- Relaxation practices: Yoga, meditation, massages, long baths. Quiet your mind.
- Fun hobbies: Reconnect with activities you enjoy, such as reading, hiking, crafting.
- Social outings: Plan dates, girls nights out, concerts. Don’t isolate yourself.
- Exercise: Release stress and endorphins through walking, strength training, dance classes.
- Nature time: Spend time outdoors, go to the beach, work in your garden.
- Therapy: Process challenging emotions with a counselor or support group.
Nurturing yourself will give you the strength and patience to be fully present as a caregiver when needed.
Let Other Loved Ones Share the Caregiving
Don’t take it all on alone. Talk to siblings, relatives, and close friends about specific ways they can lend support. Possibilities include:
- Spending time visiting your mom so you get a break
- Taking her to doctor appointments
- Preparing meals she can heat up on days you can’t visit
- Helping with household tasks like cleaning or yardwork
- Running errands for her or with her
Even a few hours of assistance from others here and there goes a long way. And your mother will appreciate the company.
Practice Gratitude for the Experience
Even through the stress, remember that time with your aging parent is a temporary privilege. The care you provide comes from a place of deep love.
When you feel resentful, try cultivating gratitude by:
- Writing in a journal each night about what you’re grateful for that day
- Verbally telling your mother you appreciate her
- Noticing fleeting positive moments like sharing laughs
Studies show gratitude boosts mental health and life satisfaction. It provides perspective when times are hard.
Ask Your Mother How She Feels About the Situation
Check in about how your mom perceives her increased dependence on you. Is she satisfied with the care situation or also feeling an imbalance? Get her feedback directly.
Ask open questions like:
- Are you comfortable with the amount of care I’m providing?
- What could I do differently that would help you feel more supported?
- Do you worry you are becoming a burden for me?
Adjusting based on her perspective will ensure she feels cared for while lessening strain on you.
Attend Caregiver Support Groups
You need extra support during this demanding time. Joining a caregiver support group lets you:
- Vent your feelings freely to non-judging ears
- Gain perspective from others navigating similar challenges
- Learn useful caregiving tips and problem-solving strategies
- Feel less alone and isolated
Sharing the load emotionally is key to avoiding burnout as a caregiver. If in-person groups don’t work, look into online forums.
Research Your Legal and Financial Options
There are programs and services to help families manage their elder’s needs:
- Medicaid: Covers long-term care costs for low-income seniors. Requires pre-planning.
- VA benefits: For low-income veterans and their caregivers.
- Caregiver tax credits: Tax breaks up to $5000 for eligible medical costs.
- Housing programs: Assistance for home modifications or senior housing.
Consult an elder law attorney about financial help so costs don’t all fall on your shoulders. Proper planning makes a difference.
Safeguard Your Own Finances
Caring for an aging parent can impact your finances. To avoid jeopardizing your own security:
- Track what you spend related to her care
- Learn the limits of her resources like insurance, pensions, savings
- Have a frank money talk about what she can contribute
- Consult a fee-only financial planner to plan ahead
- Avoid dipping into retirement savings or taking on debt
You want to be able to retire yourself someday. Seek solutions that work for both of you.
Make Use of Technology for Added Support
Tech tools that enhance safety and quality of life for seniors can also ease the caregiving role. Consider:
- Medical alert systems: Lets your mom call for help 24/7 if she falls or has an emergency. Provides peace of mind when you can’t be there.
- Video chatting: Easy way to check in face-to-face when you can’t visit.
- Medication dispensers: Automatic pill boxes that prevent missed doses.
- Meal delivery: Services that provide nutritious prepared meals. One less chore to manage.
- Transportation services: Rideshare or paratransit options so she isn’t dependent on you for rides.
Take advantage of solutions that reduce day-to-day hands-on responsibilities.
Focus on Enjoying the Present Time Together
No matter how stressful being your mother’s caregiver becomes, remembering to appreciate the blessing of time together is so important. Even simple positive moments shared can get you through the difficult ones when they arise.
Try to regularly:
- Reminisce together over old memories and photos
- Share laughs watching a funny movie or reading the comics
- Cook or bake her favorite recipes together
- Ask her for advice like you did growing up
- Express your gratitude for all she has done for you
Despite the challenges, be fully present and create joy where you can. The time you have is precious.
Balancing the intensive role of caring for an aging parent is difficult but not impossible. With healthy communication, boundaries, support, planning, and self-care, you can avoid caregiver burnout. Most of all, remember that this season won’t last forever. Do your best to cherish the moments along the way. Both you and your mother deserve to feel loved while prioritizing your own wellbeing.
How to Ensure That Your Elderly Mother’s Needs Are Met
Here are a few tips to help you ensure that your elderly mother’s needs are being met:
1. Stay in close communication with your mother.
This will help you to be aware of any changes in their physical or mental health and also allow you to check in on how she is managing day-to-day tasks.
First, try to schedule regular phone calls or video chats. This will give you a chance to catch up on what’s going on in her life and see how she is doing.
You can also use these calls to check in on her physical health and see if she needs any help with day-to-day tasks.
If you can’t talk, make sure to send regular emails or letters. Just staying in touch will let her know you care and are interested in her life. You can also use this time to ask about her health and see if she needs any assistance.
If your mother lives outside of town, you can also visit regularly. Schedule regular trips to see her and bring groceries so she doesn’t have to worry about running out of food. This will also give you a chance to chat in person and check in on her well-being.
2. Help them to create a support network.
It’s important to make sure that your elderly parent has a support network of family and friends who can provide assistance if needed. Here are a few ways to create such a network:
- Talk to other family members about your parent’s needs and how they can best be met. Perhaps there is someone who lives nearby who can check in on your parent regularly, or maybe there is someone who is better equipped to handle financial matters. By getting everyone on the same page, you can ensure that everyone is doing their part to support your parent.
- Encourage your parent to stay connected with friends and other loved ones. Social interaction is important for maintaining mental and emotional health, so it’s crucial that your parent has people to talk to on a regular basis. Help them stay in touch by sending emails or setting up video chats if necessary.
- Help your parent stay physically active. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to keep your mind and body healthy, so encourage your parent to get out and walk a few times a week.
3. Ensure that your mother’s home is safe and secure.
This includes installing smoke alarms, checking her electrical wiring, and making sure that there are no tripping hazards.
4. Consider hiring a caregiver
As your mother ages, it’s only natural that we want to ensure her needs are being taken care of. For many of us, that means providing care for ourselves. But as our own lives become increasingly busy, it may not be possible to give our parents the attention they need and deserve.
In these cases, hiring a caregiver may be the best solution.
A professional caregiver can provide many services that we may not be able to provide ourselves, such as help with housekeeping or personal care needs.
They can also offer companionship and support that can make a big difference in our parents’ lives.
If you’re considering hiring a caregiver, be sure to do your research to find someone who is qualified and who you feel comfortable with.
There are many benefits to hiring a live-in caregiver, including the fact that your parent will never be alone while they’re at home.
5. Consider an adult day program or support group.
These programs provide a safe and supportive environment for seniors during the day, while their caregivers are at work or running errands.
Adult day programs offer social and recreational activities, as well as health services such as meals, physical therapy, and medication management.
These programs can help improve your parent’s quality of life and delay the need for long-term care.
If your parent is reluctant to attend an adult day program, try attending a few sessions with them.
This will allow you to see firsthand the benefits of the program and give you peace of mind knowing that your parent is being cared for during the day.
If your parent is having trouble managing their finances, help them to set up a system that will allow them to track expenses and payments. Remember that this is a time of adjustment for both you and your parents.