Their schedules can be tight for homeschooling parents, so adding another responsibility can be overwhelming. But there comes a time when their aging parents need help. You may be facing – or may someday face – this challenge of helping to manage your elderly parent’s care, like managing their nurses and therapists, oxygen providers and medical equipment, keeping track of their medicine intake, chemotherapy, house modifications, personal care, and companionship. It’s hard to do this while also managing your household and homeschooling full-time.
While it’s a challenge to homeschool and caregive at the same time, it has many benefits for the whole family. It’s not uncommon for a child who has done little other than schooling to help around the house, entertain Grandma or Grandpa, and advance in their tests.
Combining homeschooling and caregiving may be tough, but there are ways to help you through this season.
How Will Caregiving for Your Elderly Parent Affect Your Family?
Caregiving for an elderly parent can have a significant impact on a family. Here are some ways that it may affect your family:
Caregiving for an elderly parent can be expensive, especially if your parent requires specialized care or medical attention. If you’re the only child, you’re the only one responsible for your parent. This can strain your family’s finances, leading to increased stress and tension, not to mention the extra expenses that come with homeschooling.
Providing care for an elderly parent can take up a significant amount of time, leaving less time for other family activities and responsibilities, such as homeschooling or work. This can cause stress and tension within the family. If you’re working, you may need to re-evaluate if you need to stop, as you may not be able to juggle all these responsibilities, even if you’re working from home.
Caregiving can be emotionally challenging, especially if your parent’s health declines. Sometimes, their condition, like dementia, can make their behavior worse and more challenging to deal with. But sometimes, the stress and depression that are felt by the elderly because they cannot do what they used to do can make them more agitated, short-tempered, and unreasonable. This can lead to increased stress and anxiety for both the caregiver and the rest of the family. Add to that the usual focus of taking care of children, like handling their tantrums and their needs. You will need loads and loads of patience and understanding.
Changes in family dynamics
Caregiving can lead to changes in family roles and responsibilities. For example, one family member may take on more caregiving responsibilities, while others may need to step back from their usual duties to help out. Ideally, this should be the part where everyone makes adjustments to make it easier for everyone. The spouses should divide tasks among one another and have their children help with some of the chores and care for the elderly. If someone is uncooperative, doesn’t help out, or causes problems, it adds to your stress as the caregiver and homeschooling parent.
Caregiving can be a full-time job, leaving little time for socializing and maintaining relationships outside of the family. This can lead to feelings of social isolation and loneliness. Don’t fret if this is your situation – it’s not forever, and things will eventually improve. It helps to ask a close friend, a cherished neighbor, or a relative to help with your caregiving or homeschooling tasks. The bonus is you’ll have someone outside the family to talk to!
Tips for Homeschooling While Taking Care of Elderly Parent
Now that you know the changes, issues, and challenges that homeschooling and caregiving could bring, you must consider them and plan ahead. Here are some tips that may help you manage both responsibilities:
Have realistic expectations for the family
As with deciding to homeschool, taking care of an elderly parent must be a mutual decision between the spouses. If one spouse isn’t supportive or if the elderly care recipient is opposed to it, the arrangement can result in conflict, anger, disagreements, and resentment. If you cannot agree, investigate other care options, and if there are other extended family members, have a family meeting. Here are some questions to discuss and consider during the meeting:
- What roles will all the siblings play?
- Are they close enough (geographically) so they can take turns in providing care for their elderly parent?
- Who will handle the finances regarding health care and medical expenses?
- How will legal matters be handled?
- Will other people pitch in with labor or finances for household help?
- What adjustments would be made at your home to accommodate caring for your parent?
While this is an opportunity for your children to serve their grandparents and to pitch in, they should not be expected to shoulder the burden of eldercare, as they are homeschooling. Generally, the parent who stays home during the day must be prepared to carry most of the caregiving responsibilities; usually, it’s the moms.
For many homeschooling families, it’s the moms who usually care for the parent, in addition to homeschooling, maintaining the house, and caring for the children. Husbands need to recognize this heavy task load and help whenever possible. They should be willing to give up their weekend hobbies for a while, like golfing, fishing, hanging out with their friends, etc., to provide support and help for their wives and children.
Have realistic expectations of the care recipient
Suppose there are longstanding conflicts and relationship issues with the elderly parent, especially if they are abusive and dangerous. In that case, it may be best for the peace of the family to consider options other than in-home care. Your priority is caring for your husband, homeschooling, and caring for your children and even yourself.
If you are considering caring for a parent with significantly different values than you do, be mindful of how they can impact your children, depending on their ages. Consider in advance how to deal with their inappropriate statements, impatience, hostility, and other unpleasant behaviors that could arise from either mental confusion due to their condition or personality conflicts. Patients with dementia, like Alzheimer’s, may wander, so keeping track of their whereabouts can be hard. As they lose their memory and change their behavior, they may also lose some sense of modesty, so be prepared for surprises.
Also, be considerate of their feelings. They won’t always be cheerful or personable because it’s a difficult season for them, too. They may feel discouraged about their failing health, depressed because they cannot do what they used to do, or guilt-ridden about their care’s impact on their families.
Create a flow chart and a to-do list rather than a schedule
You’ll surely want to get organized to make this work, starting by creating a daily schedule. But there is a time and place for a schedule run by the clock, but for this season in your life, a flow of events would be more conducive. You may want to list everything that needs to be done and make a flow chart for you and everyone. Caring for the elderly comes with unexpected and unplanned stuff that you may need to do, just like caring for a baby. Understand that there may be times when unexpected situations arise, and you may need to adjust your to-do list. Be willing to adapt and modify your plans as needed.
If you can keep your kids’ events and schooling on a schedule most of the time, then consider yourself successful. Key events include a set wake time, a set bedtime, meal times, school times, play times, and naps.
Start with establishing a routine
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by identifying the basics of what’s normal for a house. Check if there’s an essential that’s getting dropped, like meals, bedtimes, and basic housekeeping. Revisit and rework your routine and cover the basics to ensure there’s regularity from day to day. Knowing what comes next can be a relief; everyone can find security in a routine.
Focus on the basics at homeschool
If things are really tough, do bare-bones homeschooling. Focus on the majors and less on the minors. For instance, turn your focus on reading and math and teach the other subjects later on. Sit down and ponder on what truly matters for their age. At this time, it may help if you employ the help of educational videos and shows that are appropriate for their age – it also gives them something to be busy with while you’re taking on more caregiving tasks.
Give them lots of good reading material, audiobooks, and occasional video documentaries. Though the needs for the moment can sometimes make it impossible for you to follow a rigid lesson plan, it’s more important to preserve and build your family relationships without a perfect homeschool. It’s better to create a lifestyle in which learning can happen, even without the structure of a lesson plan.
There are many online resources and tools available to help with homeschooling. Use technology to your advantage by finding educational apps, websites, and videos that can help with teaching and learning. This way, your children also learn how to study on their own in a fun and innovative way.
When it comes to caring for your elderly patient, you may need to use GPS tracking devices or alarms and sensors, especially if they have dementia and are prone to wandering.
Communicate with your children
Let your children know that you’re doing your best to balance both responsibilities and ask for their help and understanding. Involve them in caregiving tasks and encourage them to be independent learners. Let them know it’s a hard season for all of you, and you wish they didn’t have to go through it.
Ensure you notice and appreciate your children’s efforts to show their love, cooperation, and service. Don’t forget to tell them “thank you” for their job well done.
Multitask when possible
Look for opportunities to combine homeschooling and caregiving tasks. For example, you can encourage your children to read to your parent or involve them in simple caregiving tasks, like bringing water or medicine.
If the parent you’re caring for still have their speaking and cognitive abilities intact, you can ask them to help with schooling preschool children by reading picture books to them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other family members or friends. They may be able to help with homeschooling, taking care of your parent, or running errands. You could also consider hiring a caregiver or tutor to assist with homeschooling. It is essential to have support to prevent burnout and ensure your parent and children are well cared for.
This is also a time to teach your children to be more proactive in the home by teaching them household chores and doing easy caregiving tasks, like ensuring Grandma’s diaper bin is always refilled, making their bed, giving them water and their medicine, etc.
It’s essential to take care of yourself physically and mentally so that you can effectively care for your parent and homeschool your children. Make time for self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.
Taking breaks throughout the day is important to recharge and refresh your mind. Use this time to take a short walk, read a book, or engage in another relaxing activity.
Also, it’s essential to get a break from the two responsibilities (or just one of them) for at least a day a week. You or your spouse may need to communicate the needs and limitations to other family members, so they can pitch in and help. This way, you can free up some time to recharge your batteries and plan for next week.
Recognizing and addressing the potential impacts of caregiving on your family is essential. This may involve seeking help and support from other family members, friends, or community resources. Try out these tips to make homeschooling and caregiving a little more manageable.