Helping Your Parents and Helping Yourself Too
Adjusting to life as a caregiver when your parents develop vision challenges can be tough. We often see our parents as invincible, and coming to terms with their more limited ability can be a rude awakening. And while as a caregiver, there is much you can do to help; taking care of yourself amidst the struggles will make you a stronger and more supportive carer in the long-run.
Your relationship certainly changes as your parent becomes more reliant on you for care and support. It’s tempting to avoid talking about these changes, as they can happen so gradually and you’re compelled to help in every way you can. But being open about how you’re feeling and coping will help the two of you navigate the transition, both practically and emotionally.
Talk About Your Parents Vision Challenges…with Your Parents
It can be a difficult conversation and one that both sides may want to avoid, but being open and honest about your parents vision challenges, along with your needs as a caregiver, can make a huge difference. In fact, once you acknowledge the feelings associated with this changing relationship, you may find it easier to focus more on the practical solutions that work best for you.
Map out your parents daily lives – what do they do on an on-going basis that may be impacted by their reduced vision? And how can you not only help in the moment, but perhaps help set-up a system that allows them to be more independent without your constant aid.
Spending a day helping them better organise their home is a great place to start. Create a system where associated items are in the same place, and where difficult to see items are clearly labelled with either text or even sensory tags that can allow them to feel what they’re grabbing for. Need a holiday gift this season? Try buying them some simple, cost-effective solutions to make their home life easier, like contrasting cutting boards or better lighting for their home.
And don’t try to do it all alone! Ask for help, whether it be from another family members, close friend, or even a local support group or association for the vision impaired. There are loads of resources at your disposal, and leveraging them can help ensure you have equal time to provide great care for not only your parents, but also yourself.
Keep It As Normal As Possible
Your parents’ needs may be changing, but making every attempt to keep your relationship the same can help both sides. Try not to treat your parent differently. After all, they’re still your parents and their vision challenges don’t change their role in loving you and helping to share your life. And remember that with a bit of assistance and some creativity, they are still capable of doing a lot of what they used to. Our articles on reading, travelling and cooking with low vision may help to inspire them, so there’s no need for your parents to give away their books to charity or miss out on their annual summer holiday.
It may be tempting to step in and do everything for a parent with vision problems, but it’s better for both of you if you can help them to do things independently. If there are some tasks your parent physically can’t do anymore, or they don’t feel comfortable doing, then talk through a resolution that’s best for you both.
Again, building up a network of supporters made up of friends and family is invaluable. Even monthly visits from relatives who may live further away and can’t be on hand day-to-day will help ease the load.
Give Yourself a Break
Caregiving is not easy by any means. But you can’t spend every waking moment taking care of someone else without taking care of yourself too. Caregivers can often be so preoccupied with the health of their loves ones, that they neglect their own health and wellbeing and let their needs take a back seat. Find the times when your parents can be independent and spend that time doing what makes you happy.