A lot of people liken caring for our aging parents to our parents caring for us when we were younger. But, this really isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Children become more independent as they get older; there is much joy to be had in raising children. Caring for an aging parent is a much different experience. As time goes on, they will become more dependent on you; while providing for them may make you feel good in the sense you are doing right by them, there is probably not much joy in the equation.
Advances in health care mean people are living longer than ever, but unfortunately, they are not necessarily healthier. If you find yourself in the position of providing care in any form to your parents, you can’t let yourself get swept away with the task, lest your own health, mental and physical, will suffer greatly. Here are some tips to help you maintain a sense of balance in your life and minimize emotional turmoil.
Help Them Maintain as Much Independence as Possible
Many aging parents are pretty good at manipulating their children to do as much as possible for them. This isn’t because they are evil, it is simply because it is nice to have other people do stuff for us, and not have to worry about it. But, when it comes to a situation like this, failure to establish some boundaries can pile on stress unnecessarily.
The more you do for your parents, the more they will let you do for them. Don’t do things for them of which they are capable of doing for themselves. This might be hard for you, as guilt and a desire to please can kick in big-time. Remember in the long-run, this is a good thing for your parents, even if they don’t see it that way.
Set Clear Intentions about What is Important To You
A strong sense of obligation, plus a hearty helping of guilt, makes it all too easy to get consumed by the needs of our aging parents. Many caregivers get so caught up, and at some point, they see their entire life is falling apart at the seams. To keep yourself on track, it is crucial you set clear intentions to maintain what is important to you, whether it be tending to your marriage, making sure you give your own children the attention they need, or staying on track with your career plans. There is great power in that clarity, and it will help you keep your footing in your own life.
Know Your Limits
There is a difference between keeping an eye on an aging parent who may not be as independent as she once was, and caring for someone who is riddled with disease and can no longer care for himself in any way, shape or form. There is only so much you can give of yourself before putting your own health at risk. Unless you are a trained health professional, even with your best efforts, you are not providing the best care possible. You may have promised you would never put your loved one in a facility, but it is not always possible to honor that promise.
It is important to know your limits. If you are having trouble caring for a loved one at home, it is time to start evaluating assisted living facilities or nursing homes, depending on the level of care required. You are not throwing your loved one away, or shirking responsibilities. You are doing what is best for everyone involved. Properly tending to your loved one’s life and health should not require the sacrifice of your own.
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