By Terri Whitmire, Director of Adult Day Services Center, Adventist Health, Lodi Memorial

The number of adults taking care of aging parents has tripled in the past 15 years. According to a MetLife Mature Market Institute study, 25 percent of grown children are helping to care for their parents. Nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older they are caring for and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (18 years or older) at the same time.

Do you fit in this category? Are you considered a care provider? You are a care provider if you are responsible for helping someone with their finances or with their activities of daily living such as paying bills, transporting, cooking, shopping, dressing, monitoring health, etc.

The No 1 reason someone is placed into a long-term care facility is their care provider can no longer care for them. Caregiving, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. It is something few can sustain for any length of time without it affecting their physical and mental health and overall well-being. Fortunately, you can do something about this. By developing a plan, seeking help, and taking care of yourself, you are a better, more effective care provider.

Start with a plan

You must determine exactly what care your loved one is going to need and for how long. Ask their physician. The most important thing to do next, is also sometimes the hardest. You must honestly determine how much you can physically, mentally and financially do to safely care for your loved one. Do you work or have other obligations that demand your time? You are not super human.  Know your limitations.

Armed with this information, it’s time to develop an action plan. What will you do when your loved one has a fall or if their illness progresses? Can your house accommodate a wheelchair? Can you physically care for them yourself? Can you safely keep them home? Make this plan before a crisis happens.

Ask for help

Asking for help can be one of the hardest things for a care provider. Again, you are not super human and cannot safely do this without help. Take advantage of programs and services our community has to offer to help you with this journey. Join a support a group or talk to someone. Asking for and accepting offered help will help with your stress levels and keep you healthy.

Take care of yourself

The most important thing you can do for the person you are caring for is to take care of yourself. You cannot be an effective care provider if you are not healthy.  If your health fails, you will not be able to care for the one you love.

Join a gym, take walks, eat healthy, and see your doctor when you feel ill or stressed. Rest, do something fun, take an overnight vacation, read a book, go to a movie and do not feel guilty about doing it. When you are healthy, your time with the person you are caring for can be enjoyable.