Every time we’re a passenger on a commercial aircraft, we hear the safety message that if we’re traveling with young children and the oxygen masks deploy, we must put our masks on first and then tend to the kids. This same directive applies when you care for a senior parent.

If you’ve assumed the role of a family caregiver, you know the importance, and difficulty, of maintaining that healthy balance of taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally so you can have the strength and wisdom to care for an aging parent.

So, how do you care for a senior parent without compromising your care? Here are some suggestions shared by experienced caregivers who have learned how to do just that.

1. Say “no” when you need to.

It’s hard to say “no” when someone who depends on you asks you for something. Feelings of guilt can come creeping in when what appears to be a reasonable request is just too much for us to handle at the time.

For example, if you’re caring for your mom or dad and they live with you, you might need to say “no” when you come home at the end of the workday, exhausted from your job, and your parent asks you as soon as you come in the door to get dinner started because they’re famished.

You can say no gently, yet firmly, and – without guilt – tell them you’ll be happy to fix dinner after you’ve had a few moments to decompress.

2. Ask for, and accept, help when you need it.

One of the major causes of caregiver burnout is trying to do it all by yourself. If you’re a Baby Boomer who is caring for a senior parent, not only might you have a career to tend to and a marital relationship that needs nourishment, but you also have your own needs as an aging adult that need your attention. That’s a lot for any one person to handle.

If you have family, friends, or neighbors nearby, ask them for help when you need it. If asked, most people are happy to run an errand for you, take your loved one to a doctor’s appointment, prepare a meal, or sit with your senior parent when you can’t be there.

3. Talk to the doctor – theirs and yours.

87% of people over age 65 have been diagnosed with at least one chronic illness, meaning that you probably spend a fair amount of time at the doctor’s office with your loved one. Being there when healthcare providers are attending to them is a big part of being a family caregiver.

But, you not only need to talk with your doctor frequently, but you also need to consult with your physician regularly, too. Part of proper self-care as an adult is having an annual or semi-annual physical examination and bloodwork. You wouldn’t let your loved one get away with going a year without a check-up; be sure you get yours scheduled, too.

4. Take time off regularly – without feeling guilty.

Being a family caregiver is a lot like being self-employed and working from home – you can find yourself constantly working without thinking about it. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but sooner or later, it catches up with you.

One of the best ways for you to avoid caregiver burnout is to take regularly scheduled time off. Put it in your calendar just like you would any other appointment, except this appointment is with yourself. Be sure to take this important time for yourself; you’ll be a much better caregiver because of it.

Seniors Prefer Homecare, serving Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, Alabama, understands the challenges of caring for a senior loved one and taking care of yourself properly. We’ve helped hundreds of family caregivers lead balanced lives by providing their loved ones with personalized care.

Contact us today and let us know how we can help.