If you have a relationship with your parents or in-laws, you might already be thinking about providing some level of care for them as they get older — wanting to help them, just as they’ve helped you throughout the years. But for some, that caregiving role may have popped up unexpectedly, as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted regular routines.
This might mean intermittent tasks like grocery shopping and prescription pick-ups or perhaps you are caring for someone with serious physical or cognitive challenges. No matter the relationship, it may be diﬃcult to navigate caregiving expectations and responsibilities as loved ones age. If you’re considering when and how to contribute, these tips might help.
- Stay in control of your contribution. Think about how you’d like to assist, state your willingness to help and be specific about what that support will be. If you have a tense relationship with your parents or in-laws, consider a behind-the-scenes role, such as managing an online grocery delivery. Try to approach caretaking respectfully and clearly state your point of view.
- Be empathetic and honest with co-caregivers. Whether with your partner, a sibling or anyone else caring for your loved ones, it’s important to be open and honest about what you are willing to take on. Be empathetic to everyone’s unique perspectives about caregiving. Communication is key and is part of an ongoing process, not a one-time conversation.
- Speak up. If you are taking on caregiving responsibilities for your parents or in-laws, you should be part of conversations about their health and well-being. Your caregiving will give you insights that others might miss. If discussions are happening without you, it’s fair to speak up and ask for more involvement in those conversations – with doctors or other care providers.
- Enjoy the upside. However you define your role as a caregiver, try to enter it with an open heart. Although old stressors and conflicts might still exist, this new phase of life may provide opportunities for healing. Though it might be frustrating at times — even with a compassionate approach — you can feel good about stepping up to help.
- Take care of yourself. Consider finding balance and wellness in your own life, however possible. This may mean eating right, exercising appropriately and taking consistent, meaningful time to relax or practice mindfulness. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It could be anything from breathing exercises to a favorite hobby, like gardening.
While every caregiving situation is unique, know that you are not alone. Many people are navigating caregiving for the first time, or in unexpected ways. For more information and resources, visit https://www.uhc.com/caregiving.