Being an only child doesn’t mean you have to go it alone when caring for your aging parent. If you have no siblings to share the responsibilities of caring for Mom or Dad, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and under-supported. However, don’t let the burdens of caregiving take a toll on your life. The key is to seek out help when you need it—whether that help comes from family and friends, or resources available in the community or online.
Connie Chow, founder of DailyCaring LLC, concedes that only children often feel as if they’re shouldering the burden for their parent’s care alone. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the situation—and one of the “pros” is that only children won’t be facing the conflict that so often occurs when siblings get together to make family caregiving decisions.
“They may be making big decisions alone, but they won’t have to face painful sibling disagreements,” says Chow, whose website provides useful tips and resources for those caring for seniors. “Only children may feel like they have no siblings to lean on and nobody to share the financial and emotional burden with. But caregivers may be estranged from their siblings or find that they’re always too busy when support is needed. Only children also don’t have to worry about a black sheep sibling taking advantage of their parents.”
Use Available Resources
It’s important for only children to use all the resources available to them so they can create a support system, Chow recommends. “Don’t be afraid to ask your partner, friends, or your older adult’s neighbors for help.”
Chow’s other recommendations include:
- Get support from non-profit and government programs for aging adults.
- Use meal delivery or housekeeping services.
- Automate delivery of prescriptions and household staples to cut down on errands.
“Most importantly, invest in in-home help or adult day services to get much-needed breaks from caregiving,” she suggests.
Seek Support Online and In-Person
Georgene Lahm, program content manager for Home Instead Senior Care®, likewise stresses the importance of seeking support when an only child is responsible for caregiving. “Support is key for any family caregiver, but even more so for an only child who could be feeling especially isolated and alone,” Lahm says. “Reach out to other family caregivers who may be struggling with the same issues. Online communities are one great way to do that. Connect with family caregivers who may be facing similar challenges on Facebook at Caregiver Stress and Remember for Alzheimer’s.”
Lahm also recommends searching websites, such as CaregiverStress.com and HelpforAlzheimersFamilies.com, both of which have free resources for family caregivers on a variety of topics. “Look to your Area Agency on Aging for resources in your community,” she further suggests.
Senior Living or In-Home Options
Some families may determine a move to a Senior Living community is the best option. As we have discussed in past blog posts, seniors who move into a community can engage in vital socialization that otherwise might be missing from their lives. Additionally, if they are experiencing physical or cognitive decline, they may need the professional care and assistance available in Assisted Living, Memory Care, or Skilled Nursing.
However, Lahm observes a substantial number of seniors prefer to stay in their own home as they age—or at the very least, want to stay as independent as possible. In such cases, the adult child may need to reach out for professional assistance if they are unable to provide the necessary care.
“Companies such as Home Instead Senior Care, for instance, provide at-home services that span the care continuum—from personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support,” says Lahm, adding that family caregiver education and support resources are also available.
Maintain Your Health
Taking advantage of resources is important to the adult child who otherwise might become overburdened and stressed out to the point that his or her physical and mental health begins to suffer.
“The bottom line: Take care of yourself so that you can stay healthy and make the most of your time with your loved one,” Lahm says.
SHARE YOUR STORY: Are you an only child? How does affect your caregiving for your aging parent?