A Q&A with Sarah Stein, a caregiver coordinator for age options in Oak Park, Ill.
1. How do children caring for aging parents avoid burnout and stress?
The most important thing caregivers can do is give themselves permission to seek outside help. Work on all the options you have. It’s important not to be alone. Caring for a parent is not about being a super caregiver. Find your own way of dealing with stress and then give yourself time to do that, whether it’s writing in a journal, taking a walk or enjoying a bath. Also keep things in perspective. Know that the illness will not last forever. Know that the illness is not the whole person. Don’t be pulled into depression. Don’t ignore your own health.
2. Where can caregivers turn for outside help with a parent?
The first thing to do is to contact your local council on aging. Every community has one. This group can help you find support groups as well as assist with Medicare and respite care. Disease-specific organizations exist to help caregivers with parents suffering from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. You’d be surprised how much assistance is out there, but you have to seek out the information. There are many groups on the Web to help caregivers, such as the National Alliance for Caregiving. They can all offer a helping hand.
3. How can you balance caring for a parent with the demands of his or her job?
Approach your employer and explain your situation. Talk with the human resources people. Some employers have assistance programs. If you are financially able, take advantage of the family leave law. Federal law requires employers with a certain number of employees to give you up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a family member. If you can’t take off work, there are adult day care services that will watch your parent while you work. There are also emergency home response systems that you can use to monitor a parent while you’re at work.