You May Be the Caregiver But They Are Still Your Parent
It’s hard enough managing your own life, trying to balance time with your significant other, raising children and working – let alone being an effective caregiver to an elderly parent. The lines between parent and adult child can become blurred when you are now the one expected to keep track of the daily living, healthcare and financial management issues involving your parent, keeping their best interests in mind.
While it’s easy, and sometimes natural, to feel as if your role as “the child” has now become that of parent and caregiver, it’s important to remember they are still your parent – an adult whose needs and desires are important to respect.
Here are some tips on how to keep healthy boundaries and respect on both sides.
- Talk about it now. Be prepared. While your parents are still able to care for themselves, it’s important to discuss the possibility that they may need you to become their caregiver at some point in their lives. Find out what is most important to them, so you can honor their wishes later on.
- Remember to have fun.Don’t talk only about the medical issues. Keep the relationship healthy and add a little laughter into yours and their life. Besides, laughter helps ease any tension or stress that goes along with caregiving. Caregiving can be a very rewarding experience; it’s all about keeping perspective.A study reported by the Journal of Mental Health Counseling in 2003, showed that “possessing hope and utilizing laughter and humor to cope with life’s stressors and losses” are especially important to elderly people as they experience a decline in their independence.However, laughter is just as important for your well-being. So laugh and have fun – a lot! Take a few moments out of the day for hot chocolate, a game of cards, and a puzzle, or just to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and the view.
- It is just as hard for them, as it is for you. Aging is hard for everyone but especially for the elderly who may be in denial and won’t make it easy for you. Keep in mind that it’s difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that they need help with things they’ve been so independent with their entire lives.
- Put yourself in their shoes. You know how hard this is for you as their caregiver, imagine that you are your parent and slowly have to let go of control and independence of your life.A loss of independent living may negatively impact a person’s mental health, thus reducing his or her ability to cope. Be empathetic. You want them to still be able to make as many choices as they can. You may think you know what is best for them, and you might, but the more you can empathize, the easier it will be for you, and them, to cope. This isn’t to say it’s ever easy – just easier.
5. Don’t’ forget the little things. Sometimes the things that may seem silly or unimportant to you are very important to your parent. Respect their needs and perspective even if it is not your own. By stopping to see their view, you are showing them the respect they deserve. They will more likely be willing to work with you when they know that you want to help meet their needs and concerns.
- Remember the little things for yourself too. In the process of giving so much to another it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves.Go on a date with your spouse or your best friend. Take your kids to a movie while your spouse cares for your parent. Get a massage. You will be unable to care for others if you don’t care for yourself first. So be sure to get plenty of rest, nutrition and take a little extra time just for yourself each week.
Caring for elderly parents while also trying to balance your own life can be an emotional and stressful, and also a rewarding time. Remembering these six tips will help ease some of the stresses.
And if all else fails remember to set limits and take a breather if you feel the tension building to anger. Coming back with a fresh perspective will make all the difference in the world.