When it comes to helping older people, more is not necessarily better. Too much assistance and attention can be harmful for both the giver and the receiver. Although strong support of our elderly members can produce a positive, tangible boost to the quality of their lives at first, continuing to give a high level of help can bring about a depressive effect over time. Excessive assistance erodes an older person’s sense of competence and independence and can diminish his or her life skills.
There are many reasons caregivers fall victim to shouldering too much responsibility and becoming overinvolved in their eldercare responsibilities. Feeling needed and useful are life-enhancing qualities for all of us; but idealists who believe that they have control over much of what happens to them and their elderly loved ones become burnout candidates who find themselves running into chronic situational stresses. Family caregivers who suffer burnout exhibit a variety of symptoms: physical deterioration, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and disillusionment.
The key to proper care is knowing just how much to give, especially when seniors are still perfectly capable of making their own decisions and performing day-to-day tasks on their own. Here is an invaluable sixteen-point assessment to help you keep a healthy balance between family caregiving responsibilities and maintaining the quality of your own life:
When it comes to elderly family members you should:
- Evaluate their strengths and resources, not limitations and weaknesses.
- Keep them involved in their own decision-making processes.
- Facilitate dialogues rather than try to solve their problems for them.
- Let them do what they can for themselves, as long as their safety is not a risk.
- Adhere to their decision-making time frame, rather than your own.
- Accept, and deal with what is rather than what I’d like things to be.
- Not waste energy worrying about people and circumstances that you cannot control.
- Be aware that change can occur (for better or worse) at any time.
- Ask for and accept help from others.
- Not deplete your own financial resources.
- Seek financial advice from professionals.
- Not make ironclad promises to anyone about anything and stay flexible.
- Accept that today somebody is likely to be mad at you for something.
- Continue to satisfy your own personal, professional, recreational, spiritual, and social needs.
- Accept that it is okay not to have all the answers.
- Talk about your real feelings to a trusted friend about what is happening.