Important Things to Consider When Taking Care of Elderly Family Members

Aging is a natural part of life, and it affects each and every family. The extent to which the aging of a member affects a family may not be evident at first, but time will always come when these effects become apparent and serious. An overall decline in physical and mental vitality, which naturally comes with aging, may result to visible and even drastic changes in the appearance, capability, and well-being of a family member. When this happens, long-term care may be necessary.

Taking care of elderly family members is the responsibility of the younger ones. Being part of one family demands everyone in it to foster unconditional love and offer a helping hand, especially when challenges and difficulties arise. However, before assuming the responsibility of taking care of elderly family members, family caregivers first need to consider some essential things to determine whether or not they can effectively carry out their obligation: their capacity, knowledge, and ability on self-care.

Capacity to help elderly family members in their daily needs

People tend to become weaker and less capable of doing many things as they age. Physical activities, particularly, begin to become exhausting as people reach past their mid-life age. This happens because, as people get older, their muscles tend to lose their size and strength, which can contribute so much to fatigue, weakness, and reduced tolerance to physical activities such as exercise. When an elderly family member reaches this stage, they may already need the complete assistance of a family caregiver.

Family caregivers are generally expected to serve as an aid to the needs of the elderly family members. Commonly, they are responsible for helping their old loved ones with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). ADLs refer to the basic tasks or activities that people do on a daily basis, including walking, eating, bathing, toileting, and more. IADLs, on the other hand, refer to the more complex tasks or activities that require both thinking and organization skills, including home maintenance, grocery shopping, financial management, and more. Before undertaking the responsibility of taking care of elderly family members, family caregivers first need to examine whether or not they have the time, energy, resources, and knowledge to help in doing these ADLs and IADLs regularly.

Knowledge about the conditions of elderly family members

Old people usually suffer from certain medical conditions. The most common of these medical conditions are cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, dementia, and more. Indeed, aging can bring about a number of health issues. The ability of old people to think, learn, and remember seems to decline with age, and their overall physical health seems to suffer from chronic conditions that can render them incapable of doing many things without assistance.

When elderly family members are suffering from these chronic conditions, medications, monitoring, and other forms of ongoing management may be necessary and required. This is one of the main duties of family caregivers – to provide medical care and ensure the recovery of their sick and elderly loved ones. This does not necessarily mean that family caregivers should act as healthcare experts. Of course, the jobs of doctors and other medical professionals should remain under their discretion. Even so, it is still necessary for family caregivers to have sufficient knowledge about the conditions of their elderly family members. They must know what and when medicines should be taken by their family members. More so, they need to have in idea on how to handle their loved ones when worst case scenarios come up.

Ability to take care of the self at the same time

Caregiving, in general, can be exhausting. Especially for solo caregivers, the demands of caregiving can sometimes become too overwhelming that it leads to physical, mental, and emotional stress. When caregiving becomes too demanding of a responsibility, it can possibly result to caregiver burnout.

Taking care of elderly family members is no piece of cake. Old people tend to have more needs and demands compared to children and young adults. To carry out their responsibility effectively and healthily, without leading towards burnout, family caregivers need to know how to take care of themselves too. Self-care is an essential thing in caregiving. Before taking full responsibility of taking care of elderly family members, family caregivers first need to assess whether or not they are able to take care of themselves around the same time that they are taking care of others.

Overall, taking care of elderly family members is a big responsibility to assume. It demands a great amount of time, attention, and ability. Before undertaking full obligation, family caregivers first need to consider and develop not just their efficiency in taking care of their loved ones, but also their ability to care for themselves. At the end of the day, family caregivers are humans. Just like their sick or elderly family members, they need some caring too. When family caregivers know how to take care of themselves, they can carry out their responsibility more effectively and compassionately – and as Chogyam Trungpa once said, “Compassion automatically invites people to relate with others because they no longer regard others as a drain on their energy.”

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