Much of the adjustment that goes into being a caregiver for your aging parent goes into dealing with the stress and the emotional drain that role can bring. In addition to the issues of how to care for her in the best possible way, there are the emotions of anger when programs don’t work right or when the facility she is in has problems. There is resentment at other siblings or even at your aging parent because of the demands this job has on you personally.
There are other adjustments that are a huge drain on you emotionally. Balancing work, home and private life with the demands on your time being a caregiver requires is a juggling act that will involve as many “dropped balls” as successes before you ever get it right. And about the time you do get a good balance, the demands of your elderly parent might change and you are again pulled back into that stressful situation.
So you have to think about ways you can offset the demands on you and try to take some time for you and for your family. These are all difficult emotions which may be why it takes a real adult to be a caregiver for an elderly person. But there is one emotion you may wish to foster and dwell on as much as you can to offset the worry, the anxiety, the anger and the resentment. That is the emotion of thankfulness.
Now it may seem impossible to even ponder how thankfulness could become part of your emotional reaction to this demanding situation you find yourself in. But if you can find ways to be thankful that you are the caregiver for your parent, that positive emotion can do wonders to drive out those negative emotions in your heart. And when you think about it, there are quite a few great things you can be thankful for BECAUSE you are the primary caregiver for your aging parent. Some of those are…
There is a balance between the jobs of a caregiver and the feelings of a caregiver. If you can detach yourself from the many emotions you feel when you have taken on this hard job, many of the “tasks” are fairly routine. Whether it’s doing your mom and dad’s laundry or grocery shopping or paying the bills or filling out the Medicare paperwork, much of the “stuff” of being a caregiver is pretty humdrum.
But just doing the chores of taking care of your aging parent’s physical needs is not all there is to being a caregiver. If that was all there was to it, you could hire someone to handle that. No, the real challenge of being a good caregiver for your elderly parent is the emotional support you give to them as they struggle with a tough part of their life.
This is particularly true if you are helping your mom or dad through the trials of a terminal illness. Even if they are good at putting up a brave front for the grandkids and the people at church, your mom or dad experience a gamut of feelings if the end of their lives is directly ahead due to that illness.
The caregiver’s emotions at helping your parent deal with this somber realization are tremendously complex. You have your personal emotions that are a preliminary form of grief. That is why at the funeral of a senior citizen who passed away from a lingering disease, the caregiver doesn’t seem to be grieving as much as others. The truth is, the caregiver gets most of her grieving out of the way while the senior is still here and they work together to cope with the decline and passing as best they can. So by the funeral, the caregiver is usually “all grieved out.”
But your emotions about how you feel about your loved one and about this job of taking care of mom or dad in their final months or years will have a direct effect on how you go about the job of taking care of your mom or dad and how you feel about that job as well. Probably the two emotions most commonly associated with taking care of an elderly person in decline are pity and compassion.
Pity is not really a good summary of the feelings you have about taking care of your elderly parent or parents. You don’t really “feel sorry for them” the same way you might feel toward a hurt puppy or a baby that cries. Pity is not an action emotion. The action emotion that doesn’t just look at the suffering or unhappiness of the parent and say, “that’s a shame” is compassion. Compassion sees a need in the elderly parent and doesn’t just feel bad about it. Compassion says, “There’s a need. What can I do about it?” Compassion is the genuine emotion of a caregiver.
Can you influence whether you will react with pity or compassion to your elderly parent? Yes and how you manage your emotions will be a big factor in how successful you are as a caregiver. There are three key tips you should keep in mind constantly ...
Being a caregiver for your aging mom or dad could be compared to a battle. This is even more so if you are caring for a loved one who is terminally ill. That is because the battle you are fighting will ultimately end in the passing of your loved one. But you are committed to their health, happiness and well being and to do all you can to make their golden years as peaceful and enjoyable if you can.
So what would you consider the greatest enemy you fight in this battle? It might be the battle to keep your parent’s medications up to date and to make sure she takes them every day without fail. It is a struggle to keep up with the prescriptions, the frequency of dosage and to make sure your elderly mom or dad stays on top of it too.
The greatest enemy you fight might be financial concerns with the rising cost of rent, food and medical care. Keeping your retired parent’s bills paid and anticipating if they can pay them next month and next year is source of constant worry for you as their caregiver.
But there is one enemy that is bigger than all of these. And the source of this enemy is not the economy or the retirement center or even in something going on with your parent at all. It is an enemy that seeks to hurt you and take you out of the picture. And that enemy is resentment.
Resentment can get into your mind and cause you to begin brooding about things before you even know its happening. But it’s an insidious enemy because if that resentment comes to full fruit, it will damage your willingness and ability to take care of your aging parent and seriously hurt your ability to be a caregiver at all. And if your loved one loses you as his or her primary caregiver, that is the worst loss they can endure because you are the one holding everything together for them.
Some of the resentment might be toward the systems that are supposed to help your parent. The Social Security and Medicare systems are constantly changing and becoming more complex each time some politician decides to use Social Security as a political tool. Resentment can also build up toward the facility where your parent is living if you feel your dad or mom are not getting the kind of care they need.
But the worst kinds of resentment are those you feel toward your siblings or toward the very aging parent that you are there to help. This is a serious problem because if you come to resent those you love the most, that resentment can go very deep and seriously hurt your ability to continue in the struggle to help your parent all you can. It’s easy to resent your siblings because you may have the job of primary caregiver just because you didn’t move far away. But the resentment you feel toward your aging parent is so easy to give in to because it comes from how needy they are and that often that senior citizen seems demanding and ungrateful for what you are trying to do.
So to beat resentment, you have to go back to why you are doing this in the first place. You are not ...