You should never give up your life to care for an elderly parent. Doing so may lead to caregiver burnout, making it even more difficult to help your parent around the home. Caregiver burnout can cause an array of problems, including worsened physical health, depression and anxiety, lower immune function and an increased risk of early death. If you take care of your senior parent, read on to find tips that help you stay mentally and physically at your best.

Meet Your Own Needs First

  • Consider asking another family member for assistance or hiring some help around the home. Having someone to take care of housekeeping, meal preparation and errands can ease some of the burdens on you. Home care services are usually flexible, and an aide can visit as much or as little as you’d like. Nationally, expect to pay an average of $26 per hour for home care.
  • Ensure you eat a healthy diet, exercise daily and maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
  • See your doctor if you’re feeling unwell or overly stressed. They may be able to suggest lifestyle changes or medication that can help you feel better.
  • Look for family caregiver groups locally or online. You can talk with others who understand what you’re going through and can be a source of support when caregiving gets tough.
  • Purchase assistive technology devices that may help your parent be more independent. Devices include screen readers, hearing aids, visual doorbells, talking calculators and text-to-speech programs. If assistive technology is out of your budget, your local Area Agency on Aging may be able to lend you devices for free.

Managing Your Mental Health

Caring for an elderly parent is rewarding, but the job comes with challenges that can be hard on your mental health. Family caregivers often experience a range of complex emotions, including:

  • Guilt: You may feel guilty for being unable to visit often or care for your parent as much as they need. Despite your best intentions, you may become irritable or impatient with your parent, and this can lead to feelings of guilt, too.
  • Anger: You might feel angry at your parent for needing help even though you know it’s not their fault.
  • Grief: You may grieve the life you and your parent once had when they were healthy. You might also grieve their loss prematurely, especially if they are terminally ill.
  • Anxiety: You may worry about your parent’s health, your own future and whether you’re able to give your loved one the care they deserve and need.

To help you manage these feelings, try writing them down in a daily journal or talking about them with a trusted friend. If you feel depressed, hopeless or unable to control your emotions, consider discussing your concerns with a mental health professional.