What feelings to expect at the first signs your elderly parents need help.
Changes in your aging loved ones can be subtle at first. They start to forget appointments or names. They repeat the same story to you over and over again. You notice they are less organized, the house is messy, and their appearance maybe not be as put together. The realization sets in: “My aging parents need help and I will need to play a role in their caregiving.” As you transition into a caregiving role, unexpected feelings will come up, which is perfectly natural.
Some parents are comfortable opening up to you about these life changes, others are not. They might
hire help as needed, or they may ask you to help instead. No matter how involved you are physically,
keep lines of communication open. Talk or visit on a regular basis, this allows you to monitor the
situation. It is easier to anticipate and act quickly when you are aware and prepared. Psychologically, when you feel prepared you will feel a better sense of control which helps you to stay calmer and act more competently.
If you live far away, it can be frustrating to know what is really going on and worry about the state of your parent’s lives is real. To minimize stress, enlist the help of neighbors or relatives that live close by to help monitor the situation. Keep an open line of communication with hired help to ensure you immediately know of any changes so you can decide if more needs to be done.
You may start to notice extreme changes. For example, your aging parents may begin depending
on you excessively, because they feel insecure. This extreme dependency may cause you to feel
stress, which if chronic and uncontrolled, can turn into an anxiety disorder. Reassure them that you, and others, are available to them. Reassure them that things are under control, while still encouraging them to do as much as they can.
We all lead hectic lives, and a worsening situation with you parents may take you by surprise. Slow down, start paying attention and ask the opinion of another observer. Put together a team to help early on. Your parents will be better taken care of, you will sleep better, and have the energy to keep up with your own life.
If you have had a strained relationship, negative feelings of anger and resentment come up as
your aging loved ones become increasingly dependent. These understandable feelings need to be expressed and processed. This is often when people seek professional help. Don’t let judgement by friends and family who cannot understand your situation due to their own biases, influence you.
Alternately, if there has been distance in your relationship, caregivers can begin to feel closer to your parents now that they are dependent upon you. Caring for them can help to compensate for that distance. Be aware, that caregiving may bring up feelings of sadness about lost time together.
Be in the Moment:
In my experience as a grief counselor, when caregivers see parents weaken, they realize that time is
precious. If you’ve enjoyed a close relationship with your loved one you will begin to feel sad. At this point, I encourage caregivers to spend time together and include the younger generations. Your parents feel a sense of fulfillment, while you feel satisfied at seeing the love shared by all. There is a sense of comfort and peace that you are together.
Remember on this journey as a caregiver, to take care of yourself. I always encourage clients to keep
up with regular medical checkups, accept help whenever offered and find opportunities for relaxation
and joy. Spend time with significant people in your life, it has a soothing effect.
Make sure that you (and your parents) have as much interaction with the positive people in your lives as possible. Socialization has been found to be a strong antidote to depression, anxiety and dementia, as well as keeping your immune system strong. Do not neglect your emotional life.
If you don’t have enough support, which is not unusual in this day and age, consider hiring a professional counselor to help you along the way; do not wait until you are overwhelmed and burned out!
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Miriam Taunean, MA is a professional bereavement counselor specializing in loss. A graduate of Rutgers University Miriam lives in Montclair NJ – You can reach Miriam at https://comfortingguides.com/ or call Comforting Guides 973.718.1813.