When you are caring for aging parents, you’re dealing with two sets of emotions: yours and your parents’. During this challenging time, emotions can run high. To maintain a relationship – however complicated it may be – you must know how to manage these complex feelings.
One of the first emotions you’ll have to deal with is fear. Your parents may be anxious about getting older, losing control, and being unable to care for themselves. At the same time, you may be experiencing fear, as well: fear of the unknown. What will you do when your parents are no longer able to care for themselves?
Fear makes people do strange things and act in odd ways. It’s best to deal with it head on by talking about it. When you get your concerns out in the open they don’t seem so big.
Because many people don’t like feeling afraid they tend to get angry. Aging parents may be cross about a situation rather than with a person, but they may take it out on family and friends. Your parents may resent the fact that their bodies can no longer do what they want them to do, or that others must make decisions for them.
As hard as it may be, you should never rise to heated retorts and comments from your parents. Remember, it’s not really about you. Try to maintain a neutral attitude and stay calm when your loved ones are upset.
As your parents lose power over certain areas of their lives, they will seek to exert control over other aspects. They may expect to have specific foods for meals, or want to do things at regular times. This is just their way of trying to maintain a sense of independence as they become more dependent on other people.
To deal with this attitude, try to find times when you can ask your parents their opinions. Let them choose which shirt to wear or whether to drink coffee or tea with their meal.
You’re sure to feel a sense of guilt as you care for your parents. You may wish you could do more, feel bad that you weren’t with them when they fell, or maybe that you should have noticed when they first got sick. Adult children often have a sense of self-blame for not spending more time with their parents as they get older and decline in health.
Caregivers don’t have a monopoly on guilt. The elderly often feel guilty as well. Aging parents may feel guilty that they can’t do everything they once were capable of or be the parent they have always been. To deal with this emotion you must continually remind yourself that you are only human. You also need to find time to maintain the parent-child relationship, if only by talking about special memories. Make sure that in the seriousness of the situation you don’t forget to have fun.
These are a few of the basic emotions you and your parent must deal with as they continue to age. In many cases, it helps to find an assisted living facility like Daystar Retirement Village where professionals can care for your parents so that you can maintain a degree of the relationship you’ve always known.