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Caring For An Aging Parent As An Only Child - A Geriatric Care Manager's Take

What is it like being the sole caregiver to an aging loved one?


In many families, there is a “defacto” primary informal caregiver. This usually happens to be the adult child who lives closest, has the most convenient schedule, or is otherwise best equipped to provide care. In such cases, other siblings usually chip in as well, sometimes covering financial aspects of care or being available during emergencies, which can be helpful, but things can often devolve into an ongoing discourse around decision-making and division of labor. As an only child, the responsibility of caring for an aging parent can be both rewarding and challenging. While there's an opportunity for a unique bond, the absence of siblings can also mean shouldering the caregiving duties alone. Because our geriatric care management team works with different kinds of family structures with widely varying dynamics, in this article, we'll explore the positives and negatives of being the sole caregiver, strategies to manage the workload, and the potential relief a geriatric care manager (GCM) can provide.


Let’s start with the things you can expect to enjoy as a sole informal caregiver:


  1. Strong Bond: The one-on-one relationship between you and your aging parent can deepen, fostering a strong emotional connection.

  2. Decision-Making Simplicity: With no siblings, decision-making processes can be more straightforward, avoiding potential conflicts. Especially in larger families, it can be extremely challenging to take action in a timely manner with several siblings who hold different values or opinions weighing in on what’s best for the senior. It can lead to a lot of stress and a diminished quality of care, not to mention the strain it puts on one’s relationship with their siblings. Not for you!

  3. Personal Growth: Taking on the caregiver role solo can lead to personal growth, resilience, and a deeper understanding of your own capabilities. Many solo caregivers take real pride in the help they provide and the difference they are making in a senior’s life.


Now, to address the challenges of being an only-child caregiver to an elderly parent:


  1. Isolation: Without siblings to share the responsibilities, caregiving can feel isolating, both emotionally and physically. If you are the only one caring for a senior, it can feel like nobody is going through what you are going through and nobody can fully understand or share in the joys and difficulties of your situation.

  2. Burnout: The risk of burnout is higher when there's no one to share the caregiving duties or provide emotional support. For many people, the motivation to dedicate time to caring for someone else comes and wanes. Staying committed through the cycle is absolutely possible, but it is likely to lead to developing irritability, fatigue, and depression when there is nobody else to take over.

  3. Limited Respite: Finding time for self-care or breaks can be challenging, contributing to caregiver stress and a worse quality of life or even worsening health.


For you, effectively managing the workload is key to success. Being a solo caregiver is one of those feats where strategy and automation is crucial to avoid burning out. Here are some things that always help:


  1. Build a Support Network: Enlist friends, neighbors, or other family members to provide occasional assistance or companionship.

  2. Look into professional Help: Consider hiring in-home caregivers or utilizing adult day care services to give yourself regular breaks.

  3. Reach out to a geriatric care manager: Bringing in a geriatric care manager is a gamechanger when it comes to providing senior care. A GCM can alleviate many of the caregiving burdens and allow you to focus on your relationship with your aging parent or loved one outside of just providing care for them.

  4. Do not neglect your own needs: Putting yourself first is not selfish. It’s an indispensable part of providing care. The less time you dedicate to nurturing your own health, pursuing your own hobbies, and neglecting your own relationships, career, and social ties, the worse your quality of care becomes. Remember: you cannot pout from an empty cup.


How a Geriatric Care Manager Can Help:


  1. Care Coordination: GCMs can organize and coordinate various aspects of care, ensuring a comprehensive and cohesive approach. This includes facilitating communications between various health specialists, insurance companies, pharmacies, financial and legal institutions, and more.

  2. Resource Navigation: They are well-versed in available resources and can guide you to relevant services, reducing the time and stress associated with research. PRO TIP: a quality geriatric care management team will provide honest and independent referrals to services like live-in facilities, healthcare specialists, and other providers, not ones reliant on fees or commissions.

  3. Advocacy And Emotional Support: Great GCMs take a person-centered approach in helping seniors, meaning they ensure that their clients receive are on their own terms. They also provide a valuable emotional support system, offering a compassionate ear and expert advice. For example, our team at Senior Steps advocates for the best quality of care from all service providers, ensuring that your elderly parent or loved one is never ignored, dismissed, or abused by an institution that’s meant to care for them. We offer in-person visits to help seniors socialize, go on walks together with them, and check in frequently to make sure they are receiving the highest possible quality of care.


Caring for an aging parent as an only child presents unique challenges, but with careful planning, support, and the assistance of a geriatric care manager, it's possible to navigate this journey successfully. If you are interested in learning more about our services, visit to schedule a free consultation.


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