It starts simply enough. First, you call to see if Mom and Dad need anything from the grocery store since you're going anyway. Then when you drop their things off you decide to wash up the dishes in the sink. Later you offer to pick up their prescriptions, then take them to their doctor appointment. As you listen to what the doctor has to say, you realize that Dad won't ever be able to remember all that he has said, so you start taking notes in your phone. Pretty soon you realize that he needs you to help manage all of his medical issues because his memory isn't what it used to be. And then you discover that they have been eating out nearly every meal because Mom isn't able to cook anymore, so something has to be done, but what?
Sometimes it starts with a bang. Mom has a stroke and can no longer care for herself, or Dad has an accident, and all of a sudden you are thrust into this role. Dad needs a shave?! Mom needs reminders to take her medication?!
However it comes, you are probably not expecting it, you haven’t asked for it, and you don’t feel qualified for it. What is it, anyway?
The role of caregiver. If that was ever on your radar as a career path, you are miles ahead of the rest of us. Caregiving looks a lot like the things we do for ourselves without thinking about it but never thought we would end up doing for someone else.
One of the hardest tasks of being the adult child of an aging parent is to identify yourself as a caregiver for your parent. “Oh, I just help out now and then. It’s no big deal,” you say, as inside you feel like you are starting to drown. Listen, we’ve been there. The title of caregiver doesn’t only belong to those who live with their parents 24/7, providing every bit of their care, doing it all with a gentle smile on their face. No, there are 44 million caregivers in the US providing care to those 50 and older. About 50% are working full time, but still spend many additional hours each week providing care - running errands, cooking or feeding, cleaning the house. Some provide care for months, some for years.