We’re all living longer and longer which is excellent, but also means that, at some point, it’s likely you will start overseeing care for your ageing parents. Are you ready for the impact this could have on your home-life, your children and your relationship?
• Are you already juggling as hard as you can?
• Have you got loads of free time (probably not)?
• Are you feeling GUILTY?
This is a dilemma facing people in all walks of life; many of whom will go down with stress, overload and breakdown. As a working carer, you are perhaps more fortunate inasmuch as you have another focus and in a strange way that can help. But you’re aware that your parents are becoming noticeably forgetful, frail or worse!
My name is Caroline D’ay and I spent ten years running my business whilst ‘masterminding’ the care for my dad. I write this document from two perspectives:
• Personal experience: been there, done it, got the t-shirt
• An experienced business coach, with compassion for working carers
Very few of us expect our parents to become quite so frail, so fast. There may a gradual lead up – bit of extra shopping, gardening, driving to appointments etc – or it can be sudden-onset because of a diagnosis such as stroke, neurological condition or dementia. There can be a daunting realisation that life is going to have to change. But there are steps you can take that will put you in a guilt-free driving seat. So, feet first, in we go with:
This is about you setting clear boundaries what you can do and where you need help. Inform your immediate colleagues who may be affected if you’re called away, and have a family conference with your partner, children and any siblings.
It’s important to recognise that you can’t do everything on your own. You need a network of people to whom you can delegate tasks. This could include: family, obliging friends, a cleaner, a company to supply ready meals, someone to mow the lawn, someone to change the beds. Also, a driver for appointments with Chiropodists, Dentists, Specialists…. the list goes on! It will give you peace of mind to know that the show will go on even when you’re busy.
Caring for an elderly parent can be both emotionally and physically draining. Many people experience the most dreadful guilt and anxiety at this time. Self-awareness is key to how you are and when you need help. Seeking extra support at this stage will help keep you going.
Talk to your parents early on to understand their needs and wishes, and involve them in any decisions that affect them. Persuading them to accept help can be tricky because whilst they may be finding things increasingly difficult, they are also proud of how well they’re doing. Find a way to keep the dialogue going.
This is where your management skills are especially useful. You need to think about legal and financial arrangements that will ensure your parents’ needs will be met; as a minimum Power of Attorney for both medical and finances, confirm Wills and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) are in place.
Keep yourself up-to-date on your parents’ health, medical care and other important issues. Educate yourself about any medical conditions, including prognosis and typical symptoms. It’s all to be found on the internet and you can ask their medics too. Wanton curiosity is what we’re talking about. You can’t know too much.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to support groups, counselling services and other resources that can provide guidance and assistance to you. All medical conditions have charities that will educate and inform you; Local Councils and GP’s also support carers. Registering with the right sources will help keep you updated as to the latest treatments and get compassionate support yourself.
A lot depends on how you look at it and you need to take care of your mental health while you’re on this journey. I am fortunate to be associated with Jan Brooke of Holistic Hideaway in Lyndhurst. Jan has meditations available to download FREE mindfulness audio meditations by Jan at Holistic Hideaway and she also holds meditation classes on-line. Jan and I work together on programmes for working carers. I also coach entrepreneurs and executives through this difficult time and deliver a special Management Programme for supporting working carers.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. I am always delighted to speak to fellow working carers.
Above all else, I wish you well for the months and years ahead.
Keep in touch
t. 07836 386735