It’s a well-known fact that when people are invested in caring for others, be it children, parents or a community, they often forget to take care of themselves. But it’s just as well-known that not caring for yourself is not sustainable; eventually you collapse – emotionally and physically. So we’d like to remind you about a few things that will help you be a better caregiver for the long term.

Take breaks

No one can do it all. Even if you are the primary caregiver, you can find time to take breaks by finding people to fill in while you get some much needed rest. Enlist family members or hired help and spend some time doing the things you love. And most importantly, don’t feel guilty! As long as your parents are safe and happy, all is well with the world. You don’t have to be there all the time.

Accept the new reality

It’s never fun to watch the parents you looked up to become frail or forgetful. But fighting the new reality won’t change a thing. Accepting the new circumstances will save you tons of energy. You can stop arguing with mom about whether she is wearing a new or old coat, and stop trying to get dad to take a walk when he can barely get out of his chair. Focus instead on enjoying your time together and creating new memories to cherish in the coming years.

Let people help

Our natural instinct is to shut people out when things are difficult. We think we can do it all ourselves and we don’t want others to go to any trouble. But here’s the thing: not only do you really need the help, the people who are offering really want to help. Why not let them? Family members and friends can visit and call, bring over food, host your family for a holiday meal or do the grocery run. Hired home care can help with bathing, feeding, cleaning and more. Determine what type of help will reduce the most stress, and get some assistance.

And here’s our #1 tip!

Don’t expect perfection. It’s not easy to take charge of your parent’s care, and it’s not realistic to expect that everything will run smoothly. Expect bumps in the road and take them in stride. Ultimately, everyone will be much happier.