Baby boomers have quite a go of it these days. They are looking ahead to their retirement years – or are on the cusp of entering retirement – but many are still looking after children of their own who have not yet fled the nest. Also, a number of boomers are providing shelter and support to adult children who have returned home for a variety of reasons, most often having to do with finances. Most significantly, many boomers have elderly parents of their own who need care and support.
If you look at the facts just having to do with boomers who are providing support to their own aging parents, you find almost three million Canadians who provide unpaid care to people 65 and over with some form of long-term health problem, according to Stats Canada. Support for seniors for the most part is coming from families and individuals already burdened with many demands at work and at home. It’s no small matter overseeing your own children as well as elderly parents. Keep in mind, too, that the frail elderly constitute the fastest growing segment of a total population of seniors now far surpassing four million in Canada.
Chances are good that you are now, or will become, a caregiver with loved ones who need support because of age, health conditions, injury, long-term illness or disability. Hands-on care, emotional support, and in some cases financial support, estate planning and patient advocacy are among the caregiver’s activities. Indeed, caregivers handle a range of responsibilities – from driving or housework to making medical appointments, helping others dress, bathe or administer their medicine. Many caregivers also assist at some financial level, either through spending for day-to-day needs or personal money management and planning that encompass living needs, and that involve wills and estates.
It’s quite a juggling act taking care of the elderly, especially if you are already looking after your own children, including those who may themselves have special needs due to financial problems or health concerns. But if as a boomer you are smart, you can turn yourself into an expert juggler, and come away feeling good and feeling strong, not to mention rewarded.
To be a good caregiver, learn all that you can about the role. With the vast resources of the Internet at your disposal, you can educate yourself about caregiving in no time. Find out about the benefits and services that may be available to you in your specific circumstances. Start by visiting Service Canada online at: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/lifeevents/caregiver.shtml- a site which offers advice and information about government programs of interest to caregivers.
Above all, do not let financial matters get out of hand as you administer care. Caregivers have enough on their plates without having to worry about money problems that could otherwise be avoided through monthly budgeting and a rock solid spending plan.
At the same time, it’s very important that caregivers take whatever steps they can to reduce the emotional weight that can accompany caregiving. If you don’t care for yourself, you will hardly be in a strong position to care for others. Caregiving can be highly stressful at times. Caring for a family member can separate families, disrupt relationships, be exhausting, and involve some difficult decisions. That means you have got to create outlets for relieving anxiety and maintaining order. You can do that by making stress-relieving activities part of your caregiving plan.
Set aside time for yourself. Regularly pursue things that you enjoy. Get away now and then to quiet places that give you pleasure and strength, be they a room in your own home, a garden in a local park, or a beach on a faraway island. Eat well, exercise – keep a sense of humour and take in some fun. Also, for boomers closing in on 65, it is important to get a jump on what lies ahead. Knowing the ins and outs of retirement – and managing your golden years intelligently – is all important.
In a nutshell, caregivers need care, too.