Caregiver for Senior Exhausted-Family Still Needs Dinner!

by francy Dickinson                

Dear Francy; I have spent a whole week caring for my parents down with colds. They are determined to stay in their own home for a couple more years and I am exhausted. I drive home thinking I still have the family to feed, the kids to do homework with and a very understanding husband that could use a little attention, too. How do I keep this up?

You have to stay strong to be the one that saves the world, even Wonder Woman got sleep, ate properly and made it through chaos on a daily basis. So lets see if we can come up with a few things that make you at least “feel” like you have more power over your life.

Parents that live on their own have to know that they do not get full time care from their family. Make a plan in your mind and then share it with them.

–>On Monday; I will be at your place to get the house in order and do the shopping. We will eat light that day and I will only be with you for three hours. 
–>Tuesdays; I will come over and make a few dinners for the rest of the week and get the kitchen in order.
–>Wed; I’m staying home, if I have to run by to check on your meds I will not be there more than 20 minutes.
–>Thursday; is our appointment day and all outings will only happen on Thursdays with little to no exception. While we are out we will have lunch on the road to give you a treat and then back home. This may be a week with no appointments or one with a few appointments but we will work through and get this done. Dinner that night will be one of the pre-pared dinners that were done on Tuesday.
–>Friday; is a “just come over if there is a problem” or I will simply check medications. In and Out.
–>Saturday, is a family “comes with me day”. The kids and husband come with me and we all have things to do. The kids spend 30-60 minutes visiting with grandparents. The husband tackles a simple project from the senior’s “honey do list” and I do the med check and any left over small chores. We are out in 1 hour.
–>Sunday is a day for MY own family…if I have to check meds I do it fast and without delay. I do not even leave the house before 1PM because Sunday, is my sleep in day and day to have a slow cooker meal for the gang. Once back home, I have the day to just be mom and wife.

This is just an outline to give you an idea of how you can do most of your parents care giving on your terms. The terms you set, not theirs. If they have to get up early to have you there…do it. You can go and check meds and then come home for a nap while your own family is at work or in school. You change your pattern to include slow cooked meals, one night your husband cooks and if your kids are older – they do their own laundry and folding.

Things that have to be dropped are; no more outside chores for you. A garden crew has to do your parents home and yours. If you have a teen, that would be the teen, doing two houses in the summer months. It may mean money from an already tight budget, but you have to “live” through the care giving time…not come out of it so unwell it robs you of your own future health. If your parents can afford a weekly gal to do the hard cleaning – get one, if they do not want to spend the money – to bad. They will do it, if you sit down and be honest with your own family needs.

If you are a working person…then you have to simply limit your time to your parents to no more than 2 hours, early morning or each evening with two days a week that you only stay 1/2 hour. You have to be strong about food prep. If you can simply cook at your own home and add more food and get an expanded dinner that will include two more portions, do it. Doing cooking at two homes is nutty. The morning meals for your parents should be something they can fix in the toaster. There are lots of frozen toaster designed foods that will have to fill the bill and then add a boost with an energy drink. They may complain about food changes, but once again, fight for it. They have to know that their lives change too. You are all working together as a team, you are not their employee. Their afternoon lunch is something they can do with a sandwich and soup or left overs. Then you deliver their frozen entrees a couple of times a week that require them to simply take off the top and heat in the microwave. Buy the bagged salad greens and have other veggies pre-chopped in zip locks and their salads are easy for them to dump in a bowl, to go with the meals.

Laundry is hard to do in two places but a must. You can really keep that time down with newer appliances. If you can, get a dryer that will dry quick. Make sure the lint filter is clear inside the house and outside, to make the drying speedy and use smaller loads. Get one of those new Swifters (wet/dry) for the floor at your parents home. It’s easy to use and requires little fuss. If they have an old vacuum, put that on your list to replace, make clean up as easy for you, as you can.

If your kids are 11 and above have them come over once a week and “pay” them a small allowance to help you clean. One can do the the kitchen and go over the counters with those bleach wipes and do the floor. One can do the trash and scoot the vacuum around, while you do the bathroom and have a load of wash going. Everyone gets to learn and understand that supporting and giving care to family is simply what we do. It teaches young people to honor those that are older and in need and to give time as well as humor to their grand parents. If they are too small, they can spend a couple of hours doing homework at grammy’s kitchen table while you work…that way they get the whole family to surround them with love.

Your golden rule? “I come first.” Not an easy rule for mothers and wives, but one that has to be firmly in place for “all” of your family to survive these few years of total chaos. You get to eat what makes you feel healthy, not what your kids will like. You get to watch TV programs that relax you in your small amount of personal rest time. You get to take a nap and not be interruped. You need to stop and get yourself your own hamburger and then go home to prepare a regular dinner for your family. Why? Because doing little things for yourself will keep you going. Depression can set in at a the drop of a hat, you have to give yourself treats and time snipets. To keep you mentally up, means you get to set rules that will benefit your own needs. 

Best of all…you need to try hard to laugh at all the crazy things going on around you. Remind yourself, this is not “your” life, it’s just a time of extra care giving that has to be done. You have not done anything to deserve exhaustion…you simply have to force yourself to sleep and know that for a while you will be in this whirlwind. When the time comes that your parents are gone, you will take a deep breath and start your own life over. Maybe a mani/pedi day, maybe your hair done day, maybe a do nothing but sit in your own back yard and drink pink lemonade day. But for now, be strong on your limited time to give and be kind to your own personal needs. You come first!

Please go to my website and read more ideas to get you through the hard times of giving care

Thank you for your time that you give to your parents. I know that care givers can feel very lonely at times, so know I am supporting you from a far…francy

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