What Single Moms Caring for an Aging Parent Need to Know

By Melissa Chapman

According to Dr. Marion Somers, elder care expert and author of Elder Care Made Easier the fact is, people are living longer than ever and many older people don’t want to move away from their home. They spend much more time “Aging in Place” because they want to maintain some sense of independence, not realizing the toll that it may be taking on those caring for them. Unfortunately, many single mothers are facing this caregiving issue while balancing their own health, retirement and family concerns with no one else to turn to for help.
 
“The immense responsibility of caregiving doesn’t always hit you at once,” says Dr. Marion. “It’s much like a very slow-moving snowball effect. It starts with small things like helping the person with laundry, grocery shopping, or bills but if not monitored, all of these smaller tasks can add up to one very overwhelming caregiving situation.”
 
This is TREMENDOUS pressure with or without a husband/support system. According to Dr. Marion, many single moms don’t even know where to start to look for help and therefore often waste time and really “reinvent the wheel” with regards to accessing helpful resources in their community and among their friends and family.
 
If you’re a single mom facing this predicament, Dr. Marion offers these helpful tips.
 
-Delegate, delegate, delegate! All too often, caregivers play the martyr when all they really need to do is ask for help. As long as you determine exactly what help you need, many are eager to come to your aid. If you don’t ask, people won’t just volunteer.
 
Establish an emergency plan before a crisis occurs. Having a plan in place for a potential emergency situation will not only ease your anxiety but help you be better prepared when a crisis situation does arise. Be proactive, and not reactive.
 
Be honest about the time and resources you can devote. Providing care for an elder loved one takes a large amount of mental energy, time, and financial resources. It’s important to be as organized as possible with caregiving tasks. Keep track of doctor’s appointments and financial outlays, as well as short- and long- term goals. Set priorities and see them through.
 
-Find out what resources are in the area. Start with local and community resources. Can you utilize a cleaning person or laundry service? Meal delivery? An aid (24/7, nights, days/weekends only)? Is there a community center where your loved one can spend an hour each day? Then look to family members and be specific about exactly WHAT you need and WHEN you need it, whether it’s financial support, a specific talent (handyman or cook), help with cleaning/laundry, or a weekly visit. And get creative! One example: if your loved one speaks a foreign language, ask a local high school student to spend an hour each week chatting with her.
 
MAKE time for yourself. Set aside time in your day to be alone, even if it’s only 15 minutes in the morning or the evening. Go for a walk, ride a bike, meditate, practice yoga. Even the smallest increments of alone-time will go a long way towards gaining that precious tranquility. When all is said and done, put yourself first. Once you make your physical, emotional and financial health a priority the rest will follow.
 
Encourage your Elder take some control of her situation. Let your elder find out which resources in her neighborhood that she can tap into? Is the elder a member of a church, synagogue, or local organization? People have such a hard time asking for help but these are great places to start. Make an arrangement with the local restaurant to have a running tab/or arrange for meals on wheels. Transportation is also a consideration. Sometimes local centers (like the YMCA) have transportation available or can direct you to a place that has local carpooling available.
 
“I liken caring for an elder parent to an Airplane analogy,” says Dr. Marion. “You’ve surely seen those instructions in an airplane indicating that in the event of an emergency, you should put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping others with their masks. Caregiving should follow the same rules. If you try to take care of your loved one before taking care of yourself, not only they will suffer, but you will as well.”

For more information about Dr. Marion check out http://www.doctormarion.com/

 

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