When caring for an elderly parent becomes too muchPosted on: 04 November 2015 by Lynda Shaw
50connect relationships expert Dr Lynda Shaw offers care advice for coping with the needs of elderly parents
More and more often we hear of the ongoing struggles loving families are facing when it comes to looking after an elderly parent. These days our lives are busier than ever and we crave an extra pair of hands and more hours in the day just to get the basics done. Life in 2015 is a juggling act and striking the right balance between home life, career and other commitments as well as caring for a parent is no easy task.
The struggle is whilst we fully understand and respect our family member’s desire to remain independent by living in their own home that is safe and familiar and that any changes such as moving to a nursing home is an enormously emotional and practical path to take; our own truth is we need to think about ourselves too otherwise we may lose our independence. Only by truly accepting this and by viewing outside help as a positive, not a negative, can we enable a smooth transition for a family member to a caring home or to introducing other carers to help in the home. The key is do this whilst trying not to feel too guilty. Not making the move for help may alternatively mean drowning in all that is involved in caring for someone, losing our own health and becoming overwhelmed.
Caring for an elderly parent may not be a priority on everyone’s list, but most of us take on caring duties no matter what the circumstances and just cope in the best way we know how. Committing to weekly or daily visits, making the long arduous journey back and forth and cutting into valuable family time can all put immense strain on one’s health and sanity as well as affecting those around us including our own children or grandchildren.
Women naturally enjoy high levels of oxytocin, which allows us to express compassion through bonding and nurturing as well as having the ability to empathise with others. Being natural givers, we can see beyond ourselves to help make a positive change in the lives of others, so it comes as no surprise that the pressures we put on ourselves to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother and the perfect daughter can have a knock on effect on our overall well-being.
On the other hand, men tend to deal with stressful situations in a less obvious manner, but that’s not to say that they aren’t emotional. Characteristically, men can appear to be more withdrawn and are less likely to talk about how they really feel in order to remain stoic and self-reliant but still very much feel the emotional difficulties of caring for an elderly parent.
It’s fair to say that the fear of the unknown and fear of being alone are two of the most distressing concerns that many elderly people worry about, and it becomes our job to reassure and encourage. Introducing change in any situation takes time – it’s a psychological adjustment that will take getting used to. By looking at options in detail and focusing on the benefits of asking for outside help will enable everyone concerned.
Top tips to enjoy our elderly parents
Stepping into their shoes
Take time to see it from their point of view. Many older people are very proud and refuse help in part because they are money conscious or are afraid of losing their independence. Try to listen to their worries.
Try to offer options and alternatives and include them in all parts of the decision making. Give them a voice so they don’t feel that the control has been taken away from them.
Set your limitations
You can’t be at their beck and call 24/7 – be realistic and don’t feel guilty when you miss a visit or don’t cook a hot meal. You can only do your best and if that’s not good enough, then an extra pair of hands needs to be on the agenda!
Make it positive
Give plenty of reassurance that outside support is not going to be a hindrance but can only be a positive. Stay grounded - however much or little help they need is up for discussion, but getting help is a must.
Be a good listener
Talking through your anxieties can sometimes help you both come to an agreeable solution. It may take several conversations talking about the same fears and worries, but demonstrating patience and being a good listener will show that everyone’s feelings are important.
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