If you were to name the top 5 emotions you experience while providing care for aging 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 a number of cases, though family members would not wish to admit it, the answer is a definite YES.
The hard reality is that many adult children grapple with the fact that their parents are getting older. Growing up, our parents might have exuded health, strength, and control, giving us an underlying impression that they would always be there for us. Witnessing a decline in their health upends that notion, which could leave us feeling let down, disillusioned, anxious, fearful, and yes – angry.
As the tide changes and older parents become the ones needing care, family dynamics can become complicated. And the negative stereotype in our society towards aging informs us that aging is something we ought to resist or deny – something which may have an effect on how both adult children and their aging parents handle age-related decline.
Add to that the compounded stress experienced by individuals who are part of the sandwich generation – taking care of children at home and caring for aging parents at the same time. Nearly one out of three adults with aging parents believe their parents require some level of senior home care in addition to emotional support.
So, how can you transition to a more positive mindset? The most important step is coming to a place of acceptance. Laura Cartensen, psychology professor at Stanford University and director of the 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 essential when caring for aging parents. Family care providers and their parents should express their feelings about what is working well in the relationship, and what needs to be altered. Sometimes just understanding the other person’s perspective makes all the difference. For instance, a senior parent may express agitation with being prompted to put on his or her glasses. A recommended response may be to clarify the reason behind the reminders – because of a concern that the parent may fall, for example. A compromise can then be reached.
Concentrating on the high quality time your caregiving role affords you with your senior parents, while balancing your parents’ needs with your own, is key. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by discovering a dependable care partner to assist.