If you were to list the top five emotions you encounter in caring for elderly parents, what would they be? Maybe you’d first think of feelings like love, compassion, and sometimes, even stress or frustration. Would anger make the list? In many cases, though family members may not like to disclose it, the answer is a definite YES.
The stark reality is that a number of adult children struggle with the reality that their parents are growing older. Growing up, our parents may have exuded health, strength, and control, giving us an underlying impression that they would always be there for us. Watching a decline in their health upends that belief, which might leave us feeling let down, disillusioned, anxious, fearful, and yes – angry.
As the tables turn and aging parents become the ones in need of care, family dynamics can become challenging. And the negative stereotype within our culture towards aging tells us that growing older is something we must deny or resist – something which can have a direct impact on how both aging adults and their adult children handle age-related decline.
Add to that the compounded stress experienced by people who are part of the sandwich generation – caring for children at home and aging parents at the same time. As many as one in three adults with senior parents believe their parents require some degree of care in addition to emotional support.
So, how can you transition to a more positive mindset? The most important step is arriving at a place of acceptance. Laura Cartensen, psychology professor at Stanford University and director of its Center on Longevity, explains, “The issue is less about avoiding the inevitable and more about living satisfying lives with limitations. Accepting aging and mortality can be liberating.”
Honest, open communication is also critical. Family caregivers and their parents should share their feelings in regards to what is working well in the relationship, and what needs to be improved. Sometimes just learning the other person’s perspective makes all the difference. For example, a senior parent may express irritation with being prompted to wear his or her glasses. An appropriate response may be to explain the reason for the reminders – because of a fear that the parent may fall, for example. A compromise can then be reached.
Focusing on the high quality time your caregiving role gives you with your aging parents, while balancing your parents’ needs with your own, is key. One of the best ways to achieve this is by finding a dependable care partner to help. Get in touch with Golden Harmony, the trusted provider of in home care in Raleigh and nearby areas, at 919-426-7522 for more information.