01/26/2014 02:52 EST | Updated 03/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming Your Parent's Caregiver

It is funny how one person's dream can be another's nightmare. A common case in point is elderly people who have a dream and strong desire to spend their entire retirement in their own homes. In reality this dream can become a nightmare for the adult children left to care for them, no matter how well meaning and caring they may be.

Adult seniors who insist on living on their own can be immovable, inflexible, headstrong and sometimes just plain obstinate. While we all wish to live in our own homes to the end of our days, in some cases this may not be the wisest or most practical of decisions. Despite the growing number of retirement alternatives out there, some people believe that there is no place like home and will go to any lengths to stay put even when their safety is at risk. The reality that is often glossed over or overlooked entirely is that sooner or later every able bodied person, who decides to make their own home their chosen place for retirement is going to need assistance with the tasks of everyday living. Who is going to assist them at this point in their lives?

The natural choice and the one most frequently implemented, is the grown adult children due to feelings of obligation and duty. In fact this job usually falls on one particular family member. The question that arises is why not do it all yourself? You love your parent, right? You are doing this out of love not guilt and obligation. Sometimes there is no choice but consider these points before you decide to take on this role.

• Caregiving can be a full time endeavour and can deprive you of a social life, quality time with your own children and any down time for yourself. Ultimately a state of burnout is not uncommon amongst family caregivers.

• You may not be the most qualified person to care for your aging parent. Yes this point may offend you, but the fact is that professional caregivers often have knowledge of many things that can enhance and develop the quality of an elderly person's life, especially if they have chronic illnesses.

• You may not have the time required to devote that will truly make a difference in your parent's life.

So ask yourself these important questions before you decide to become a full time caregiver:

1. What personal sacrifices must I make in order to properly look after my parents?

2. How will this role impact my spouse and children? Can I still devote the quality of time to my own family?

3. What will the financial sacrifices be and can we afford it?

4. Will my employer understand my need to devote time and sometimes take time off work to see to my parent's welfare?

5. Will too much time off work cost me my job and if it does what impact will this have on my family's security?

6. Will too much time off work cost me that promotion?

7. How much do I really know and understand about caregiving?

8. Will I be able to provide the same level of care that a professional caregiver can provide?

9. Will my spouse or children feel resentful or jealous when I spend too much time devoted to my parent's welfare?

10. Will I be able to make time for myself? Can I make time for myself without feelings of guilt invading?

These points need to be carefully considered as no two families are the same. Remember that when you take on the role, often the condition of the parent is not too bad, but one must be aware that in reality they most likely going to decline in the future. Can you cope with this? Generally caregivers do not stop until they drop from exhaustion. Who is going to care for you? Do you have complete support and assistance from other family members? What is your back up plan when things get too much?

Before taking on a caregiving role, one must understand the consequences of the task on hand and have a clear plan in place for when you cannot be there.


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