Africa: The Dilemma of Parenting Your Parents

16 January 2020

You may find yourself as part of the sandwich generation. This is the demographic among us who are both raising children and caring for their ailing parents.

Salome Chira, Clinical officer and Executive Director of At Home Healthcare Kenya spoke to MumsVillage on this subject. She works alongside caregivers in these situations and she shares that juggling these two roles can be overwhelming. It is common for caregivers to fall into depression.

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She gives tips on how you can stay afloat:

The Loneliness - Having the responsibility of taking care of a patient, running a home and possibly a career, it is easy to retreat within. You may often feel isolated and alone, with no-one to confide in. You might even find yourself taking out the stress on your children or your spouse. It is helpful to reach out to friends. Staying socially engaged will help you not lose perspective. Salome organizes support groups in the Nairobi area for caregivers and especially for those caring for parents with Dementia.

Step aside - When you are caring for an ailing parent or In-law, this might seem like the appropriate time to fix a bruised relationship. It is easy to fall into the trap of overcompensating for things you feel you failed to do in the past. What this does is take the time and energy that you were supposed to spend on your own family. First, let go of the guilt or the doubts that you may not be doing enough. Learn to delegate some tasks. If someone offers you their help, say YES.

Get training - Most of the time, people thrust into the caregiving roles are untrained. When you are both Mother and Caregiver, time and energy are in short supply. Go out of your way to learn behavior management and communication skills for caregivers. At Home Healthcare Kenya is one of the institutions offering such training. You can also get some information online. Training will make your caregiving job easier allowing you time and energy to be mother. Educating yourself will also give you confidence in yourself. Your ailing relative will sense it and will thus be more compliant.

Encourage independence - You can't do everything. That said, it will be easier on everyone involved in the long run if you encourage both your ailing patient and your children to be as independent as they can be. If there are tasks that they can do effectively for themselves, let them.

Make use of technology - You will not able to physically meet all of your duties. Embrace technology. You can use it to keep in touch with friends, health providers. Cameras for instance can be used to keep an eye on the ailing parent or on your children when you can't physically be present.

Painful choices - Sometimes, especially if you are an ailing parent's lone caregiver, you will be faced with painful choices you have to make and live with. Your toddler and the ailing patient may need your attention at the same time. You will need to use the test of a reasonable man. Ask yourself, what would the ailing adult want you to do?

Forgive yourself - You are human. You can't be a perfect Mum and caregiver all day every day. You will make mistakes, stumble, fail to get some tasks done. It is okay. Do the best you can and let go of the self-judgement.

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